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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Nimród Antal
Cast:
Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry, Scott G. Anderson, Mark Casella, David Doty
Writing Credits:
Mark L. Smith

Tagline:
How can you escape ... if they can see everything?

Synopsis:
A suspenseful, classic thriller, in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock, starring Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, that will keep you on the edge of your seat and your heart pounding! When David (Wilson) and Amy Fox's (Beckinsale) car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they are forced to spend the night at the only motel around, with only the TV to entertain them ... until they discover that the low-budget slasher videos they find in their room were all filmed in the very room they're sitting in. With hidden cameras now aimed at them ... trapping them in rooms, crawlspaces, underground tunnels ... and filming their every move, David and Amy must struggle to get out alive before they end up the next victims on tape.

Box Office:
Budget
$19 million.
Opening Weekend
$7.603 million on 2551 screens.
Domestic Gross
$18.986 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
French
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 85 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 8/14/2007

Bonus:
• “Checking In: The Cast and Crew of Vacancy” Featurette
• Extended Snuff Films
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


Vacancy (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 22, 2007)

While most horror flicks feature young up-and-coming actors, 2007’s Vacancy offers a bit higher pedigree in terms of cast. No, Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale don’t boast dynamic box office power, but it does come as a surprise to find them in this sort of flick.

Vacancy introduces us to married couple David (Wilson) and Amy Fox (Beckinsale) involved in a bad relationship strained by the recent death of their young son. During a long, unpleasant car trip, their car breaks down and they end up at a motel in the middle of nowhere.

While there, things go from crummy to worse. First they’re subjected to some stranger who bangs on their walls. When that seems to end, they try to unwind with the in-room videotapes, all of which show gruesome examples of torture. If that’s not bad enough, matters get more upsetting when it becomes clear that the horrible tapes were shot in the same motel room – and they don’t appear to be fake. The rest of the flick follows their ordeal.

When I went into Vacancy, I expected an effort in the same vein as recent torture-horror movies like Hostel and Turistas. From the start, however, director Nimrod Antal makes it clear he aspires to a different level of pretensions. The opening credits boast a very obvious Hitchcock homage, and the scenes with the motel clerk (Frank Whaley) give off a patently obvious Psycho vibe.

Unfortunately, Vacancy owes much more of a debt to the modern movies I mentioned above than it does to Hitch. Granted, it doesn’t delight in gore to the same degree as its siblings. We get some graphic violence but not a lot, as the film keeps those elements to a reasonable minimum.

Otherwise, any resemblance to Hitchcock is skin deep and more of the filmmakers’ hopes than any reality. Hitch certainly wouldn’t have made a movie with so damned little real tension or drama, and I also expect he’d have created characters with more life to them. Our extended introduction to David and Amy in which we learn of their estranged relationship proves almost totally meaningless. While I know the film couldn’t just plop them in the terror without any exposition, I wish that the character development actually mattered.

It doesn’t. Yes, David and Amy inevitably grow to care about each other again as they deal with their nightmare, but so what? Why did they need to be emotionally separated at all? Those elements don’t connect to the story or the characters in any significant way. They could’ve been a happy couple at the start and the film would’ve worked just as well. This makes all of the info about their problems feel useless simply because those elements set up a pay-off that never comes.

It doesn’t help that for 95 percent of the movie, Amy comes across as a bitch, helpless or both. The film eventually allows her to redeem herself, but we don’t buy that change given her negativity up until that point. We need to invest in these characters, but it becomes tough to do so.

Ultimately, Vacancy never manages to become anything more than a mediocre horror flick. For all its Hitchcockian pretensions, it lacks anything to let it rise above the level of the usual pap. It’s no more tense, dramatic or involving than any of the others.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Vacancy appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. The movie displayed decent visuals but not an optimal transfer.

Though sharpness usually seemed fine, it occasionally took a hit. Most of the elements displayed good delineation and clarity, but wider shots tended to come across as a bit iffy and undefined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed some light edge enhancement at times. As for source flaws, I saw a couple of small specks but otherwise the movie was clean.

Colors stayed very subdued. The movie focused on a brownish palette without many examples of bright tones. Within the production design, the hues appeared fine, but they appeared somewhat lackluster. Blacks tended to be a little drab, while shadows were slightly dense. The image was good enough for a “B-“, but don’t expect anything better than that.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Vacancy, it stayed rather low-key most of the time. This wasn’t the kind of horror flick that poured on the slam-bang effects. Instead, it tended to favor general atmosphere. Most of the action came in short bursts such as when the baddies banged on the motel room walls or one came after David in a car. The track popped to life well on those occasions and also involved the surrounds to a satisfying degree, but not a lot of these sequences appeared.

Audio quality was good. A few lines seemed a bit brittle, but most of the speech was natural and concise. Music seemed lively and dynamic, and effects followed along the same lines. Those elements featured good range and impact. This mix was too subdued for anything over a “B”, but I found nothing problematic about it.

A few extras fill out the set. Checking In: The Cast and Crew of Vacancy runs 21 minutes, 36 seconds as it offers movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from director Nimrod Antal, writer Mark L. Smith, producer Hal Lieberman, executive producers Brian Paschal and Glenn Gainor, production designer John Gary Steele, director of photography Andrzej Sekula, stunt coordinator Lance Gilbert, and actors Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley, and Ethan Embry. We learn a little about the flick’s inspirations, story and character topics, performance choices, the director’s work, sets and locations, cinematography, shooting the “snuff films”, stunts, and a few general production thoughts.

“Checking” mixes good production notes with the usual promotional fluff. Because of that, the show becomes acceptably satisfying but not thorough enough to be memorable. While it offers enough substance to make it worthwhile, it can’t turn into anything particularly strong.

A collection of Extended Snuff Films lasts a total of eight minutes, 48 seconds. With these, we get a closer look at the videos briefly seen in the film. To some degree, they’re better viewed as short snippets since the acting isn’t always so hot. Nonetheless, it’s cool to view them in a more intense manner.

We also find two Deleted Scenes. These include “Raccoon Encounter” (1:25) and “Alternate Opening Sequence” (1:15). The former offers a very minor extension to the segment in which David and Amy walk to the motel from their car; a raccoon pops out while he takes a pee. In the latter, we see the aftermath of the couple’s time at the motel but no specifics; I guess someone figured the movie needed a sign of things to come. It didn’t, so both of these cuts made sense.

A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Blu-Ray DVDs, 30 Days of Night, Resident Evil: Extinction, and Vantage Point. These also appear in the Previews domain along with clips for I Know Who Killed Me, Revolver, Perfect Stranger, Rise: Blood Hunter, Hostel Part II, Bobby Z and Fearnet.com. No trailer for Vacancy appears here.

If you want to find a flick that combines a Hitchcock vibe with the “snuff film” tone of many modern horror movies… keep looking. Vacancy aspires to provide the best of both worlds but instead just becomes a tedious effort without any real drama on display. The DVD gives us acceptable picture and audio as well as a few decent extras. This is a mediocre release for a forgettable film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.4705 Stars Number of Votes: 17
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31:
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