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  Publicity Stills of "Vacancy"
(Courtesy from Columbia TriStar)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Nimrod Antal
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry
RunTime: 1 hr 25 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: NC-16 (Brief Nudity and Coarse Language)
Official Website: http://sonypictures.com/movies/vacancy/index.html

Opening Day: 19 July 2007


When David and Amy Fox's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they are forced to spend the night at the only motel around, with only the TV to entertain them... until they discover that the low-budget slasher movies they're watching were all filmed in the very room they're sitting in. With hidden cameras now aimed at them... trapping them in rooms, crawlspaces, underground tunnels... and filming their every move, David and Amy must struggle to get out alive before whomever is watching them can finish their latest masterpiece.

Movie Review:

The film starts off well by introducing us to bickering couple David and Amy, whom we find out are on the brink of divorce and soon to be stranded in the middle of nowhere because David had taken a turn off the interstate highway and subsequently puts on a futile display of machismo by refusing to ask for directions. Predictably enough, their vehicle conks out in the open and the couple have to either spend a night in their broken-down car, or take their chances with the only available motel for miles. While the seedy motel obviously doesn’t have classics like “Psycho” or “Identity” on cable, it does however have a bunch of cobwebby video tapes piled up against the ancient television set. Horror and realization subsequently dawn upon the couple when they conclude (rather belatedly) that the grainy amateur snuff films they are watching take place in the room they’re in.

With better actors than Wilson and Beckinsale, the movie might actually make a bigger impact on the audience. Because we’re stuck with these two, however, there’s not much to say about character development – Beckinsale graduates from sullen to shrill as she becomes increasing fidgety and terrified for her life, while Wilson struggles to maintain a stoned façade throughout, thereby cementing him as one of the most stoic B-grade actors of our generation. After this cinematic turn, you may be right in guessing that “vacancy” would feature prominently in their acting calendars from now.

Watching the panicked couple flee for their lives through heavily claustrophobic sets including dinky tunnels and cluttered rooms, all the time being chased by scary men in black masks wielding shiny weaponry masterminded by a creepy Mason (Frank Whaley) is, dare I say it, a fun-filled thrill ride. To their credit, newbie screenwriter Mark L. Smith and relatively unknown director Nimrod Atal manage to do a relatively decent job of breathing new life into a well-worn premise like the old stuck-in-dilapidated-motel-after-car-broke-down routine.

Never once letting up on the taut pace, we descend into a breathless cat-and-mouse chase between victims and pursuers without knowing whether or not they’ll survive up to the very last minute – only to be disappointed by the huge copout of a watered-down climax. Clocking in at only 80 minutes, the best part of this film is that it never overstays its welcome, preferring instead to register the requisite amount of scares before making a hasty exit with an ill-fitting generic ending obviously aimed at pleasing the executives over at the studio.

Movie Rating:

(Done to death formula gets new spin but ultimately let down with tacky ending)

Review by Ninart Lui

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