Monday, August 27, 2007

DVD: Vacancy

Genre: Horror
DVD released: Aug. 14, 2007
Director: Nimrod Antal
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry, Scott G. Anderson
Verdict: &&&

Vacancy succeeds in raising expectations right out of the gate with its nifty Hitchcockian title sequence, which is accompanied by equally Hitchcockian strings-laced music that seems to promise each viewer will soon be at the edge of his seat (I love the movie's poster, shown at right, as well — stylistically, Vacancy is ace from top to bottom). It also acknowledges up front that everything that follows is derivative, and I admire the honesty. As David and Amy Fox, Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale are a young couple who peck at each other like an old married couple, especially after their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, with the Pinewood Motel offering their only respite. Soon after checking into a room at the isolated highway hotel, which appears frozen in 1973 and offers roaches as the welcome committee, furious knocking occurs at the front door and from the adjoining room's locked door. After complaining to the manager, a bored David pokes through a stack of VHS tapes stacked atop the TV. He pops one into the VCR, and what looks like a cheap slasher film begins to unfold. Upon closer examination, he notices familiar surroundings: The footage was shot in the el-cheapo hotel room he now occupies. One scene soon afterward shows the hotel manager handing over a box of tapes to a truck driver who's passing through, leaving no doubt that David and Amy have just landed a brief film career. From there, it's a fairly predictable but intelligently executed thriller, with the snuff film aspect adding an intriguing angle that is at least a bit different from the lowbrow concepts of the average slasher flick of the week. The climactic cat-and-mouse game, involving underground crawl spaces and a voyeuristic bank of monitors in the manager's office, generates a tension that may indeed scoot you closer to the edge of the sofa. // DVD notes // Extras include an alternate opening that was rightly scrapped and a montage of faux snuff film footage shot in the retro-trashy rooms. It's quietly chilling if not particularly shocking.

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