a critiQal film review Vacancy (2007)

Plot: When their car breaks down, David (Wilson) and Amy (Beckinsale) decide to spend the night in the only motel around. Seeing a few videotapes in the room, they put one in...only to discover grisly murders have occurred in the room. With hidden cameras watching their every move, and masked men at every exit, David and Amy must find a way to escape - before they become part of the next snuff film.

514 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 34s)

We had seen the previews for Vacancy a little while back. Since we both liked Kate Beckinsale in Underworld (2003), we wanted to see it…but were unsure if the normally goofy Luke Wilson would be the right fit for a horror flick. I thought he might, since I had seen Old School (2003) a few years ago (yes, technically that’s not a horror flick, but the hideousness of it gave me chills).

Despite a few misgivings, we both still wanted to see Vacancy, and picked it up at Blockbuster® the last time we were there. So, would Luke be able to tone down his acting and portray a more serious character, or would Kate Beckinsale have to lead him by the hand every step of the way?

Kate Beckinsale, apparently swearing off the vampire-chick gig for the time being, has expanded her acting skills, acting in a comedy with Adam Sandler (Click (2006)) and now pairing off with Luke Wilson for Vacancy – and it’s gone a long way towards proving what a versatile actress she is. She’s shown with these films that she isn’t just the kick-butt and take names bad girl, she’s got depth. Still looking a bit vampire-ish (read that as ‘pale’), she manages to turn her cookie-cutter character in Vacancy into something worth sticking around for.

Luke Wilson, known for being goofy, goes the serious route for Vacancy and manages to easily keep his end of the bargain. One change is the goofy smile, replaced instead by a sterner look – he becomes someone who people will recognize as Average Joe. Sure, he’s got a little baggage, and he isn’t the bravest guy on the planet, but he, like most of us, is afraid to die, and pushes himself as much as possible in order to keep on living.

Sure, the plot is tired and cliched, revolving around a death motel. And sure, Luke and Kate’s characters are cliched as well, with the man protecting the woman – despite the fact that the two characters are in the midst of a divorce and can barely stand each other. And, of course, that anger towards each other evaporates over the course of the film. And yes, the bad guys are basically faceless automatons going through the motions, and their actions are never clearly explained. Vacancy recognizes the cliches – and shrugs. It doesn’t care that it feels like it’s a remake of a remake of a remake, it just wants to scare the viewer a bit. Nothing too shocking, but enough to speed up the heart rate a little bit even while the viewer laughs at themselves for jumping.

In other words, Vacancy aims to be nothing too special – just another horror film that will probably be easily forgotten…with a couple of stars who try their best to not make that happen. They succeed on some level, but not enough to carry the movie into greatness all by themselves.

Decent enough for a rental, but Vacancy probably isn’t worth owning – unless you’re a huge Beckinsale or Wilson fan.

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