Vacancy – Film Review

In the 1979 Vietnam War epic APOCALYPSE NOW, Frederic Forrest’s Chef warned us, “Never get out of the boat.” In 2007, VACANCY brings the warning closer to home: “Never get off the Interstate.” You see, you needn’t travel to the jungles of Vietnam to find hidden dangers waiting and even eager to kill you; they’re available in the highways and by-ways of America, located on winding roads in the middle of next to nowhere – places where the descendants of Norman Bates (and perhaps the distant cousins of the Texas Chainsaw family) continue to preside over isolated (and quite literal) roach motels, where guests check in but most definitely do not check out.
Amy and David Fox (Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson) are typical victim fodder for this genre: far from being noble heroes, they’re barely likable; it’s the filmmakers way of flashing a big middle finger at Hollywood conventions, telling the audience to leave sentiment at the door because this bickering couple might get whacked just for the helluva it, so why waste any tears over them? David makes the regrettable mistakes of (a) getting off the Interstate highway on a long road trip and (b) swerving to avoid a raccoon in the middle of the road. The latter near-accident causes engine trouble that forces the Foxes to spend the night in a roach-infested motel run by the amusingly creepy Mason (Frank Whaley, suggesting where John Waters might have ended up if the film-making gig had not worked out). Along the way, we learn that Amy and David are getting a divorce, but they kept the news quiet so as not to ruin the party (thrown by her parents) from which they are returning home. It’s not long before a perusal of some home-made videotapes in the “honeymoon suite” reveal that the room has been used as the setting for a series of snuff films, in which motel guests are unwillingly cast as the victims. This leads to a long, tense game of cat-and-mouse between the Foxes and Mason’s two accomplices, who seem to enjoy drawing out the suspense for maximum dramatic effect. Amy and David try to figure out a way to survive, but how can they hope to escape from a trap where so many before them have met a ghastly fate? Read More