Plot: David (Luke Wilson) is on a road trip with his embittered wife Amy (Kate Beckinsale) and in between poisoned words, the couple winds up lost in the middle of nowhere. A map seems to have been little help, but David remains convinced he is on the right track, at least until a stop for fuel at an isolated gas station reveals otherwise. As the attendant tells him, David is quite off course and has to backtrack to get oriented, but at least the couple has directions now. But before they can return to the main road, the car breaks down and with no other options, David and Amy check into a rundown, slightly creepy roadside motel. The place is even creepier once they’re inside the room, but things are taken to a new level when David puts in a video tape he finds on top of the television. The tape contains a horrific, violent scene that seems to have taken place in the same room. This is confirmed when the couple discovers several hidden cameras, but can they avoid be stars in the latest snuff movie and who is behind these sadistic, twisted attacks?
Entertainment Value: As someone who watches a good amount of horror movies, one of the elements I always have fun is how stupid the characters can be, as of course, it leads to ridiculous situations. The genre is often criticized for this, but it is a necessary evil, as good decisions would result in short horror movies, after all. Vacancy takes the concept of clueless lead characters to a new level, with David and Amy in a chain reaction of bad decisions. If you tried to take a shot each time David was stupid, you might die of alcohol poisoning long before the end credits. But to me, that helps what would have likely been a middle of the road thriller be a little more memorable, as the sketchy script at least gives us some unintentional humor. The premise is a good one, but the movie doesn’t commit and wants to keep things clean, rather than plunge into the kind of darkness, which is a shame. I still think Vacancy is watchable, as it is slick and well produced, it just isn’t scary or all that memorable. The main draw is how dumb David is and the constant dysfunction between the couple, but that can be enough if you’re just in the mood for a lower tier thriller. So it might not be a classic, but Vacancy isn’t a total wash and has some fun moments.
A woman is topless on one of the snuff tapes, but the video is so blurry and zoomed out, I can’t credit the bare breasts this time around. No other sleaze pops in, but given the chill between David and Amy, that is no surprise. This movie has a dark premise and an R rating, but is easily one of the tamest movies I’ve ever seen about snuff movies, as there is minimal violence and bloodshed. The snuff tapes show some assaults, but it is either riddled with grain or shot from a distance or weird angle, so whatever happens is barely even discernible. The main narrative involves a few gun shots, some mild violence, and one blade wound scene, but that’s all. Seems odd to make a film about snuff tapes, but include little to no bloodshed. The dialogue isn’t that memorable, but we have some fun marital dysfunction, Frank Whaley’s creepiness, and the sheer idiocy of David, so there are some highlights. The outlandishly poor decisions of the characters aside, there’s not much craziness to discuss.
Overall Insanity: 1/10
The Disc: Mill Creek has issued Vacancy as part of their No Tell Motel release, with a total of eight movies themed around motels, castles, inns, etc. The transfer for Vacancy is fine, about what you’d expect from a DVD release, though putting four movies on each disc does cause some minor compression woes. But given the price involved, it is a nice chance to grab eight movies in one affordable swoop.