Wednesday, July 18, 2007

VACANCY: Full of Tension, Lacks Logic

VACANCY (thriller)
Cast: Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley & Andrew Fiscella
Director: Nimrod Antal
Time: 85 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Terror outside: Beckinsale and Wilson
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? A tired, quarrelsome couple are driving down a lonely road at night. Their car breaks down just a mile away from a seedy roadside motel and gas station. They trudge back to the establishments to call for help but discover that they have no choice but to stay the night there.
The motel manager (Frank Whaley) looks a bit dodgy but harmless. David Fox (Luke Wilson) decides to watch TV rather than continue fighting with his wife, Amy (Kate Beckinsale). He cannot get any reception on the telly, but there's a cache of videotapes lying around conveniently. He slips one of them into the player and, to his horror, discovers that the scenes of a couple being brutally slashed are shot in the room they are staying in.
Soon David and Amy find hidden cameras in their room and from the noises outside, they realise that they are about to be the next stars of Pinewood Motel's home-made snuff movies! Can the bickering Foxes lay down their differences and work together to get out alive?

HIGHS AND LOWS: "Vacancy" is a slasher-flick with a touch of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". Okay, it makes the notorious Bates Motel look like a unit at Club Med but under the direction of Nimrod Antal, a maker of Hungarian films, "Vacancy" is so filled with tension and suspense that you will be kept at the edge of your seat throughout the movie.
The plot, by Mark L. Smith, generates conflict and tension on two levels. The first, of course, is the husband-wife rift that any married couple in the audience can relate with. The relationship between Amy and David are so much on the rocks that we can almost see the verbal sparks flying. We keep expecting David to fly off his handle any time. The other level is the external threat of getting 'snuffed' by the villains. Here, the thrills are delivered thick and fast as the couple engage in a cat-and-mouse game with the killers. Antal gives us little time to catch our breath as he takes us through rat-infested underground tunnels, trapdoors and even up in an attic.
It is only when the movie resorts to its 'generic' ending that we start questioning the loose ends in the script. Like, why would the video-graphers leave incriminating tapes lying around for their would-be victims to view them? Why did David not think of arming himself throughout his bid to escape this Killer Motel? How come Amy, who had been shown as the scared, nagging wife, suddenly learn to take things into her own hands?

THE LOWDOWN: However, it is rather obvious that "Vacancy" has accomplished what it sets out to do: provide audiences with 80 minutes of cheap, unmitigated escapist thrills and spills. If this is primarily what you want, then you would have gotten what you pay for - and the objective of "Vacancy" is fulfilled.


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