Director(s): Nimrod Antal

Writer(s): Mark L. Smith

Cast: Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley and Ethan Embry

Reviewed by: Christine Lambert on

Release Date(s)

Apr 20, 2007 - Wide

Vacancy is terrifying. Really, that is the most important thing that needs to be known before seeing this movie. From the moment the credits come on the screen, Vacancy has an eeriness that only great horror films have.

Vacancy stars Luke Wilson as David Fox and Kate Beckinsale as Amy Fox, a couple who we quickly learn are on the brink of divorce. Their contentious relationship is highlighted when, coming back from a road trip together, David leaves the main highway in favour of a detour that leads him to a desolate back road. There he swerves to miss hitting a raccoon, damaging their car and forcing them to spend a night in a rundown, seedy motel.

The night manager of the motel, Mason, is played be Frank Whaley. From his first introduction, there is no mistaking that Mason is a creepy man whose smile and forced good-natured demeanour is covering up for a more sinister character. The couple checks into their room. Disgusted with the filth and tatters of the room, David tries to make the best of things and puts some video tapes in the VCR hoping for some pornography. Instead what he finds are snuff films. And even worse, those films, he soon realizes, were made in the room that they are staying in. It isn’t long before David and Amy find themselves as the next stars of the movie series.

Vacancy is a deeply intense psychological thriller. If it is possible, the movie is almost too good. It is very hard to watch at points and not because of the obvious mention of the snuff films, but because the director Nimrod Antal brilliantly brings the level of tension so high, that you feel that you are participating in the film instead of just viewing it. Another thing that lends to the scariness of the film is the musical score. Never have I seen a movie where the music was so perfectly fitting to what was happening on the screen. Paul Haslinger brings his musical expertise to this psychological thriller.

Kate Beckinsale plays Amy with many dimensions, but with subtlety. She goes from each emotion as many people do without being over the top. A complex character, we learn as the movie goes on why she is so angry at the beginning and what led to the demise of her marriage. Luke Wilson is also very convincing as a hurt guy who just wants to make the best of a bad situation. Though he is also at the end of his marriage rope with Amy, Wilson makes David an immediately likable character. Frank Whaley gives new meaning to menacing as Mason. A truly slick performance that redefines creepy.

Vacancy is not a very long movie. Running close to 90 minutes, the story and actions take place quickly. The only thing that comes close to being a flaw is that the ending comes a tad too quickly. But it is still a movie to be seen if you are a fan of thrillers. Be warned though, sometimes the tension in the movie comes close to unbearable. And that’s coming from a big fan of psychological thrillers.