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Vacancy (DVD)

Vacancy DVD (click for larger image)Starring Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry, Scott G. Anderson

Directed by Nimród Antal

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


What’s in a name? I must be honest here, with my apologies to Mr. Antal, but when I saw this in the theatre, as soon as his name appeared on the screen, everyone (myself included) laughed. Nimrod. Man, it must have been hell growing up. I’m sure the director had his fair share of assholes making fun of his name. Sometimes the only way to shut them up is to knock them on their ass. That’s what Antal did with his movie Vacancy because by the time it was over, most of the folks who were laughing found themselves screaming.

Vacancy is much maligned. People seem to either like it or straight up hate it. Me? I found it to be a competent little thriller, but before I get into that, let’s flesh out the story a bit.

Meet David and Amy Fox (Wilson and Beckinsale). They’re your average married couple who cannot stand the sight of each other. Yep, looks like their wedded bliss has turned out to be a muddled miss. We find our couple at the end of their rope while out on the road. After the car breaks down, our bickering duo have no choice but to check into a seedy motel for the night.

Vacancy DVD (click for larger image)Everything about the place seems a little off. Especially the cable. There are no Sci-Fi original pictures or whiny chefs from The Food Network to be found for the viewing pleasure of our twosome; instead they have nothing but static and fuzz. To make matters worse, Amy isn’t even into indulging in some good break-up sex to pass the time. Luckily David finds himself an old VHS tape which he prays to the gods above contains at least an hour of fuzzy unfocused porn. JACKPOT! But what’s this? It’s fuzzy and unfocused all right, but where’s the sex? Wait … could this be torture porn? Has David found an old Lionsgate tape? Wait! The stuff that’s going on was filmed in the very room they’re staying in?!? Why, yes it is! Uh oh! It’s not long before the proverbial shit hits the fan, and our troubled couple find themselves at the mercy of some sick fucks who like to make snuff films with the unsuspecting folks who check into their motel. Game on!

Vacancy knows what kind of film it wants to be. Everything from the stylized credits and the music fit the feel of the film pitch perfect. This is not your usual star-studded suspense romp. Instead it feels more like an old action thriller from the late Seventies or early Eighties. While it may be riddled with cliche after cliche, Vacancy delivers a dark and claustrophobic experience that never ventures too far out of the realm of believability. It’s taut, gritty, and at times pretty damned intense. Forget the consensus. Judge it for yourself with an open mind, and you’re bound to be a little surprised.

Given the film’s poor box office returns, I wasn’t expecting anything major to be on the DVD. In fact, I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if it just got the bare bones treatment. Instead, Sony throws us a few bones here and there. First up we have an alternate opening sequence that shows the aftermath of the night’s events. Personally I hate things like this as they sort of let you know what to expect before the film even starts. Clocking in at about a minute long, this scene was rightfully excised.

Vacancy DVD (click for larger image)Next we have a twenty-one-minute making-of featurette titled Checking In: The Cast and Crew of Vacancy. If you’ve ever watched a DVD or read a DVD review, I’m sure you can guess what we have here. There’s nothing special to be found so there’s not much need for me to reiterate.

From there we have yet another deleted scene called Raccoon Encounter. Why this and the opening got separate sections on the DVD is beyond me. Maybe Sony wanted it to look as if they were giving us more than they actually are? Who knows! Anyway, this scene shows Luke Wilson peeing on a bush that ends up being inhabited by a masked critter. That’s it! Insert biting sarcasm here —> This DVD gets “5 out of 5″ for its special features! **Blank stare**

After weeding through the supplemental mediocrity, we finally have something to get a little excited about — the unedited snuff tape footage that David was watching. Sporting a run time of nearly nine minutes, what we have here is a gruesomely voyeuristic look at how depraved we as humans can be. Even though this footage is staged, it seems nonetheless realistic. In fact, if it were me in charge of marketing, I would have leaked this footage on the Net before the film even came out. Imagine the would-be hoopla! Hey, it worked for Blair Witch.

While this film may not exactly make you want to spend the night, you may just want to at least stop by and check out the digs before moving on to what you think will be the next shinier package. In a world in which video store shelves have been raped, littered, and generally fouled with repugnant Uli Lommell films, Vacancy is akin to a free continental breakfast — it may not be much, but it sure goes down easy.

Special Features

  • Checking In: The Cast and Crew of Vacancy featurette
  • Mason’s Video Picks: Extended snuff film
  • Alternate opening sequence
  • Raccoon encounter scene

    Film:

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

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  • Steve Barton

    You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.