Went to the theater yesterday and there weren't any films that I really wanted to see. It came down between Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Vacancy. I ended up with Vacancy since I liked Nimrod Antal's previous film Kontroll, and since ATHF works in 11 minute doses, but an hour and a half.....I'd have to be drinking heavily for that to work.
The theater was nearly empty except for my wife and I, and a group of about 6 teenagers who decided they would spend the film talking loudly and using their cell phones. That ended when my wife yelled at them in one of those moments when you really know why you love someone.
Anyway, Vacancy starts out like a bad melodrama. We have a husband and wife, David and Amy (Owen Wilson, Kate Beckinsale) who are on their way home after being at the wife's parents anniversary party. Apparently they dislike each other, and are getting a divorce.
On the drive home, David decides to take a shortcut through a rural area after encountering a wreck on the interstate. His wife wakes up from a "zoloft induced sleep", and is p**sed that they are in the middle of nowhere. Not only that, but David just ran off the road to avoid hitting a raccoon....now the car is making strange noises.
They stop at a small gas station and the attendant (Ethan Embry) tells them there's not much wrong with the car. They decide to keep going and break down about a mile down the road. Lucky for them, there is a motel beside the gas station they just stopped at.
Up until this point, I was bored out of my mind. The direction used in the film was very interesting, but the dialogue and the drama between the husband and wife was driving me nuts. Actually seeing Embry in a major film eased some of the pain, but I was damn bored. That is, until they get to the motel.
Upon entering the lobby, they meet the manager, played perfectly by Frank Whaley. Whaley was the saving grace of this film. As soon as I saw him, I got right back into the film. I'm a fan of Whaley. They guy disappeared for years, not in any real films in the last decade or so. Now within the last year, I've seen him on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Boston Legal (like 2 weeks ago), and Vacancy. It seems that early in his career he was used due to his young looks, now he's everywhere playing whacked out characters as his looks have certainly changed.
Anyway, the manager gives them the honeymoon suite and that's when all types of crazy s**t starts happening. They find, after watching tapes in the room that the manager and a few of his friends like to videotape murders in the room. They are being videotaped and very soon they will be brutally attacked. From there it's a battle between them and the group of killers outside.
Antal was more than able to keep the suspense up throughout the film. I rarely get "scared" when watching a film, but there were some scenes here that were downright unnerving. Antal doesn't go the shaky-cam route or do any quick cuts. The scenes in the film are steady, understated and a refreshing change from what we've been given in the past few years.
The film holds it's momentum and keeps itself fresh until the last 10 minutes or so when it turns into a normal thriller. I wish the ending could have held up as well as much of the rest of the film, but it was not to be. The ending is one you've seen a million times before.
Overall, I say it is well worth seeing.
It far exceeded my expectations, and it elicited a response out of me, which is very rare.