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Not every premise makes for a good film.

  • Feb 15, 2011
Rating:
-1
** out of ****

Ugh. It is time yet again for everyone's favorite unfortunate cinematic encounter; the self-applied genre of "movies that I would have loved to love". Nimrod Antal's "Vacancy" is another one of those films, and that's what makes it so darned forgettable. It's also what takes away from its entertainment value. All in all, "Vacancy" isn't really all that bad of a horror/thriller. There are some good moments of taut tension. These were the moments where Antal seemed to know what he was doing, and then there was the rest of the film. First off, Antal can't really expect us to give this film much credit as a film that's actually "good". As a B-Movie, sure; it's good. But "Vacancy" aims to be true horror; the kind devoid of blood and with more of a fixation on actual thrills. "Vacancy" is restrained in the gore department, and that's always a good thing. But it makes me wonder if the film would have been any better if the gore had been included. You know what, upon thinking about it; I think it's a damn good possibility. But "Vacancy", alas, just doesn't work; at least not to full effect. If I have to give this film credit, than I shall. There were some very entertaining moments of well-directed suspense and chills. The premise is a good set-up indeed, and it leaves room open for all kinds of spooky possibilities. But moving on to the many, many flaws of the film; it never uses its premise to its advantage. In fact, "Vacancy" can be pretty damn boring at times, mostly due to inconsistency, mediocre acting, and a handful of annoying clich├ęs. There is a well-made thriller underneath the film's flawed skin, but it's never made as important as it should be. I guess it's one of those films that I would just love to remake if I were a filmmaker; since my version would appeal to me as well as half the people that just didn't enjoy this one. All the flaws I have described are the same common criticisms you will hear from most people, and they have good reason to dislike this film. It's not bad, and it's not good either. But that's precisely the problem, and it's also why "Vacancy" is just so damn tedious.

"Vacancy" has what should be known as one of the coolest horror movie opening sequences I've seen in a long, long time. I kind of expected a lot of "good" to follow, but nope. Antal fails at just about everything aside from disappointing. The story of the film follows a middle-aged couple, whose car breaks down, forcing them to retire to a bedroom in a nearby mobile station. The room is mediocre and the manager is creepy; all the more reason to question just where such a night full of crap is going. In truth, it's going to hell. The couple soon finds several cameras hidden in their room, right after they watch a tape depicting a snuff film shot in the room itself. They fear that they may be the killer's-whomever they may be-newest victims. And once the killers are a-knockin', you'd better start a-runnin'. So that's what our two characters do, and they run from their stalkers for a long, long time. Well, at least it seems like a long, long time; given the fact that "Vacancy" does absolutely nothing to pace itself to perfection. The tone is set to "creepy". The thrills are set to "moderately high". So why didn't I like the film? Because it was so unbelievable. How can I be drawn into a film like this when the opening sequence- which as I mentioned earlier, was very, very cool-is the best part of the film aside from a few good but forgettable thrills? How can I take my mind off of characters as stale as long-forgotten Saltine Crackers? Nothing in "Vacancy" makes it a bad movie; but nothing in it makes it a good one either. All-in-all, it's a bit too bland for my taste. I would not recommend it, although there will be those who enjoy Antal's choices as well as the ways he chooses to carry out such a bold and intelligent idea. I like the concept of mobile-station horror, but this film doesn't do it a whole lot of justice. And it certainly didn't get a hook on me. It's utterly forgettable.

Well, it's good to see Luke Wilson in a film that doesn't suck. He's usually in a lot of crap these days, which surprises me given the quality of his characters in "Bottle Rocket" and "The Royal Tenenbaums". This is not a performance of the highest caliber for the actor, but it's not a bad performance overall. Wilson does seem to dedicate his performance to past horror icons, although he doesn't really fit as well as he thinks he does. He's been all-too drenched in comedy films to feel like a horror veteran, although he does surprisingly decent here. Kate Beckinsale, who isn't exactly new to horror, does decently as well; but all the same, she's more fun to look at than she is to observe for her acting talents. But at least she can act. But undeniably the best actor in this entire film, to me, was Frank Whaley as the creepy motel manager. Now that is some damn fine acting right there. He might have made the movie for me if it hadn't been so darn uneven. Too bad it was.

I think that Nimrod Antal is a talented director, and he can make a mean thriller if he really tries. Based on my not-so-good memory, "Kontroll" was pretty damn good as far as thrillers go. But then I saw "Predators", and I changed my mind about Antal's coherence. "Vacancy" cannot be called one of his worst or one of his best because frankly, Antal has not made enough films yet for that. All I know is that "Vacancy" has style, but not a whole lot of flare. There's some mild entertainment to be found in this thriller, but it's all too predictable and ludicrous for me to fully enjoy it. I did like the atmospheric qualities of the film, but something tells me it could have been a heck of a lot better. On the other hand, I don't have a lot of complaints when it comes to the film's visual style. The film looks pretty great; complete with crafty cinematography and a nice, crisp look. The original score isn't too shabby either; in fact, it's actually pretty good. But stylized is all this film becomes, and due to that, I don't like it all that much. But oh well; what can you do. At least someone is bound to enjoy or possibly even love what Antal has done here; but that someone simply isn't me. I didn't like this film, but I didn't hate it either. It's cheesy and formulaic; but never bad. However, that doesn't mean it is entertaining. And in my opinion, "Vacancy" isn't as entertaining as it should be. It has a few decent-good thrills here and there, sure, but does that really mean it's good? Nope, I do not think so. But if you watch it, keep in mind that it's not half bad; but it's not half good either.

This film feels right. It looks right. So why, oh why, is "Vacancy" NOT right? I just don't understand what went wrong here; good premise, talented director. Is this really what Antal calls a follow-up to "Kontroll"? I think it's quite unworthy. The thing is disappointing, and I really, really wanted to like it. I can't say much good about it since frankly, there's not much good about it. It's kind of a 50-50 kind of film; you either like it or you don't. Who knows; it might be a cult film destined to find its own little audience. Or maybe it's just a forgettable horror film that doesn't know how forgettable it actually is. It could go either way, and I don't really care. I don't like it when a film tries to be less generic through style. I'd think that a guy as talented as Antal would understand that, but apparently he just doesn't get the point. He has ruined a good premise with "Vacancy", and he has officially made me a little pissed. None the less, I'm open to his films; since there are some cool stylistic elements of his direction. But they're not enough to save his films. I guess all I can say for that is: too bad. Yes, too bad indeed. Too bad that "Vacancy" isn't really worth your while. Too bad that the film is actually quite boring compared to the no-hold thriller that it's supposed to be. It's mediocrity; and that's the bad side of decency. You don't want to end up there when you're making a film such as this. I do admire Antal's craft, but I also resent his "style-over-substance" approach. If it had wanted to be campy, then maybe it would have been funny enough to enjoy. But alas, "Vacancy" is but a minor and forgettable little horror trifle.

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February 23, 2011
I think the fiolm would have felt a little more real if no name new face actors would have been cast.
February 25, 2011
Yeah, exactly. I mean, really; Luke Wilson? He couldn't have been more NOT right for this movie.
 
February 18, 2011
despite my huge crush on Kate Beckinsale, I couldn't exactly like this one. It wasn't 'puke-tacular' but definitely nothing worth seeing more than once. Nice review!
February 19, 2011
Thanks.
 
1
More Vacancy reviews
review by . November 16, 2008
This is like a reality show where they use shock therapy as a substitute for marriage counseling. David and Amy Fox are just about washed up as a couple when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Their only option is to stay at a creepy hellhole motel, run by a remnant of the `70s, and hope that they can get help in the morning.     They find some video tapes in their room, but instead of the dirty videos they're expecting, they get what seems to be a home made horror …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
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It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure
Release Date: April 20, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 24min
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