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Feature


Young married couple David and Amy are on the road, going home after attending Amy’s parents’ anniversary party. For the whole trip they’ve been pretending they have a happy marriage, but after the death of their son it’s only a matter of time until they go their separate ways. Trying to avoid getting them stuck in a traffic jam on the interstate, David turns down a country road and leads them into the middle of nowhere. When their car breaks down in the middle of the night, they have no choice but to check into a creepy-looking motel run by a creepy-looking manager…

Vacancy
During my time at DVDActive I’ve reviewed a few short horror/thrillers like When A Stranger Calls, Fragile and Black Xmas and I’d definitely say that Vacancy can be added to that collection. Like those other movies in the list, Vacancy clocks in at less than an hour and a half, contains stars from the Hollywood B-list (or below) and unfortunately isn’t really gory enough to be a decent horror movie and isn’t really scary enough to be a decent thriller. That aside, Vacancy isn’t a total failure.

A couple in the process of splitting up being brought back together as they attempt to overcome the obstacles in front of them might not be the most original idea ever, and the two headline stars aren’t exactly pushed to their limits, but their performances are convincing enough to keep the story moving along nicely. Director Nimrod Antal came up with the concept of the manager of a tumbledown motel murdering his guests to make snuff movies when he wondered how the owners of seemingly empty hotels paid the bills. It’s an idea that allows for some decent early scares when David and Amy realise what’s in store for them but it’s when the story really gets going that we find ourselves in thriller-by-the-numbers territory.

The main problem is that it’s pretty much all been done before, and done a lot better. It’s difficult to stretch the setup of two people stuck in a motel room fighting for their lives to a feature-length running time and there’s a lot of sitting around talking in the darkness that left me wondering what the bad guys were up to and why they didn’t get on with killing their guests. If I had been watching Vacancy with a checklist of horror movie clichés, I’m pretty confident I’d have ticked off the whole lot, including sticking doors, cars that won’t start, a lost mobile phone and someone you might not expect to talk to on the end of a 911 call.

Vacancy
If you look hard enough there’s plenty of plot holes to be found as well. Is it really possible to sneak up on someone across a wide patch of gravel? Don’t the police care when one of their officers doesn’t report back in when he is dispatched to investigate an attempted murder? The whole thing feels like the writer came up with a pretty good idea but didn’t really know how to end it. I was expecting some kind of major twist or blatant setup for a sequel but got neither. Instead, it just seems to stop and there’s a good chance you’ll have forgotten what you’ve watched by the time the credits have finished rolling.

It takes a while to get going and once it does, Vacancy dishes out the standard stock horror characters and devices, not even making the bad guys look that menacing, and the whole thing is over before you know it. It’s difficult to truly love or truly hate anything about this decidedly average movie. Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson are always watchable, but they definitely deserve better material than what is on offer here.

Video


Vacancy is the second of the first batch of Blu-ray discs I’ve got in my review pile and I’m quickly becoming impressed with the detail in the picture on this format. It raises a couple of interesting points that I’d never noticed before, even in a cinema. First of all, I’ve started to pay more attention to lighting, especially when a movie like Vacancy is based on a set for most of the running time. I found it easier to pick out the direction of light sources, which took me out of the movie when I noticed white light coming from a source that obviously didn’t exist in the ‘world’ I was supposed to be immersed in.

Vacancy
The second point is that the facial imperfections and makeup are more noticeable, especially when the viewer can pause the high definition picture at will. The quality of the picture itself is pretty decent. I noticed some areas that were a little grainy, in particular scenes with low lighting, but they weren’t obvious when I was more than six feet away from my 37-inch screen. The black level isn’t quite perfect, with the dark sky appearing slightly grey against the black widescreen bar at the top of the screen, but these are really just little niggles that I feel compelled to point out due to the generally high picture quality on offer here.

Audio


This disc comes with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio tracks. Because the movie takes a while to get going, there’s not a lot to impress early on, although there are no problems with the dialogue that features heavily in the first act. Once the action is thrust upon us, the surround speakers are given a workout by the typical ‘jump out of your seat now’ effects and the sounds of bad guys outside the motel room, tormenting our heroes inside. There’s a nice bit of echo on the characters’ voices at appropriate times and overall I’d say the audio complements the visual experience well but it’s not the most inventive or impressive soundtrack I’ve ever heard, just like the movie itself.

Extras


The featurette about the cast and crew, with interviews focusing on the characters, the writer and an interesting segment about the design of the motel set, is the short highlight in this small set of extras. The alternate opening was left out for good reason, giving away far too much about the ending of Vacancy and involves a cast far larger than the rest of the movie, which probably means there were a lot of unhappy people left on the cutting room floor. One deleted scene and extended versions of the snuff films shown during the movie are the only other features included on this disc, which are all presented in standard definition.

Vacancy

Overall


Vacancy isn’t the worst movie I’ve seen this year but it’s certainly one of the most forgettable. This Blu-ray release looks and sounds good but the extras wouldn’t convince me to pick up this release, even if I was a fan of the movie. If you’re still thinking you might like to watch it after my ho-hum review it might be worth giving it a rent, but I don’t think there’s enough in the movie or the extra features to warrant repeated viewings.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray edition.


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