Theatrical Review: Vacancy

David and Amy Fox are a married couple suffering some problems as the result of the death of their son. They’re on a road trip to one last family event before they make their divorce final and due to a back-up on the interstate, they decide to take some side roads to get to their destination. They end up lost and even worse, they end up with car problems. Their car problems force them to stay at a mysterious motel where they soon discover something really sinister is happening.

And then it just gets freakier and creepier…

Vacancy is a very well-made suspense thriller from director Nimrod Antel that really manages to get under the skin in some very creepy ways, tapping into some fears that I think we’d all have taking those little out of the way road trips that you don’t really want to take. It’s very nicely paced, and it’s well set-up so that you actually give a damn about what happens to David and Amy along the way and you’re rooting or them to get through, which is so unlike other movies of this type when you can’t help yourself but hope for the deaths of some extremely obnoxious characters. David and Amy, while having their problems aren’t like that, and you actually do want them to get out of their situation intact.

It helps that you have actors like Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale cast as David and Amy, both really give good performances, and I’m impressed with Wilson in particular, who almost always end up as the everyman of some sort, but here he’s one that you can relate to. The always good-as-gold Frank Whaley is also in the film as the creepy manager of the hotel. Whaley’s always fun to watch and he delivers the goods in this film quite well.

The funny thing, I was watching Ebert & Roeper this weekend, and this week filling in for Roger Ebert was John Cougar Mellencamp, an odd choice to be sure, but with credentials, with him being a movie director himself. Now I could’ve told you already how Richard Roeper was going to react to this, it would be a particularly smarmy review going on about how he’s seen this again and again and it just didn’t do anything for him. Mellencamp was immediately refreshing compared to Roeper and virtually any other reviewer, because he was more of a man on the street review than what Roeper would give and as such was diametrically opposite of what Roeper’s review was (and he totally countered every argument that Roeper had). The same thing happened with NBC’s movie review show Reel Talk with Jeffrey Lyons and Allison Bailes, although both are professional reviewers, they went opposite ways with Bailes really enjoying the film and Lyons not liking it all, but Lyons mostly didn’t like it for it’s subject matter and at once even stating when a certain something happened in the film, he just didn’t like that at all (although that something is absolutely something that would probably happen in that situation). There was a lot of reference from both Lyons and Roeper about stupid things that the characters do… and I gotta say, I just didn’t see that. There are things that the characters do that might seem stupid, but with the situation as desperate as this was, these options to me were the only things that they could do.

I always like little thrillers like this, and while this one is set-up with situations that you just don’t want the characters to get into, they have to get into them just in order to survive. This is very tight and at times very brutal, but if you’re a fan of a good thriller, well I could think of worse ways to spend your money. Vacancy gets a total recommendation from these parts.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

23. April 2007 by Darren Goodhart
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