Anthony's Film Review
Vacancy is a fairly short but otherwise intensely suspenseful thriller...
The first thing I noticed about the 2007 thriller film Vacancy is its overall simplicity in production. This is a movie that is set in just one location, features a cast of no more than 20 people in principal and supporting roles, and has a running time of just 80 minutes. Based on this, you might think that this is a movie done by amateurs or students in film school. But amazingly, it doesn't have that feel at all. The filmmakers here really did put professional quality into this movie. While Vacancy can be called a low-budget film, it's low-budget relative to the typically huge budgets for Hollywood movies, but still bigger than a truly low-budget movie involving, let's say, a few thousand dollars in expenses.
The first 20 to 25 minutes of Vacancy presents a setup that is almost entirely drama with little to no suspense. David Fox, played by Luke Wilson, is driving along a rural road in the middle of nowhere without any source of light other than the car's headlights. While his wife Amy, played by Kate Beckinsale, had been sleeping in the passenger seat, David had chosen to find a shortcut to navigate around obstruction on the nearby interstate highway. Not too long after Amy wakes up, there is a potential problem with the car. During a quick stop to a gas station, a mechanic examines the car and claims that there's no major problem. And yet, after driving away, the car breaks down. David and Amy have no choice but to walk back and check into a motel for the night.
Even if you can easily suspect that the mechanic tampered with the car's engine, David and Amy still view him as a good Samaritan. Now, they do get nervous when they hear a woman screaming as they step into the motel office. But it turns out that the screaming is coming from a movie the motel manager is watching. So once David and Amy get into their room, they talk a little more without seeing anything strange. That is, until David finds videotapes at the room's television set and plays one of them. The video contains a homemade snuff film, depicting women getting beaten and killed by two masked men. The truly shocking revelation is that the room in the video is the same room they're staying in, and right away, David finds the hidden cameras that captured the horrors taking place there.
From here until the end of the movie, the suspense and thrills are cranked up to a high level. The fact that the movie gets scary in a sudden rather than gradual manner makes up for the first 20 to 25 minutes that are quieter in comparison. Furthermore, the movie doesn't let go. The fear that we in the audience experience is practically constant until the last minute. Even if there are moments when we feel relief, they are moments of reduced fear, not true downtime. When David and Amy are in a cat-and-mouse scramble for their lives at a shady motel with nobody else around other than killers on their tail, how can we NOT relax while watching this movie?
I'd like to take a moment to address two potential criticisms of Vacancy: the short running time and the absence of character development. While I still believe that the best movies have excellent plotting, characters, and production value, I also know that good movies don't have to deliver all of those goods. They just need to deliver at least one thing and deliver it well. Here, Vacancy succeeds in generating heightened suspense in the context of a simple yet solid plot. Also, I look at this movie as a realistic depiction of what people might go through if, in real life, they stay at a motel where killers are lurking. In such a situation, the only thing that matters is getting out alive.
Based on this, Vacancy is not an empty movie as its title might suggest. It's a quick and simple thriller film that delivers quality Hollywood entertainment. This is a movie to check out if you like heart-pounding suspense without a need for sophistication.
For more information about Vacancy, visit the Internet Movie Database.