This is why you gotta stick with a nice Motel 6.
A young couple (Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson) stranded at an isolated hotel with a lone desk clerk (Frank Whaley) are shocked to find that their room is wired with video equipment — but their anger turns to terror when they realize that they could become the star attractions in a snuff film. As the two struggle to escape, they find evidence that the murderous filmmakers have been producing these twisted movies for years.
In the beginning, the film first feels like a bit of ‘Psycho‘, with the very dramatic music and colorful, big credits but as soon as the couple gets to the motel, it turns out to be something like ‘Halloween‘. This change in pace would sometimes destroy certain films but for Vacancy, it only makes it a little bit better mainly due to director Nimród Antal‘s tension-fueled hand.
The film is downright dirty but there is barely any gore which is cool to see with any horror film but the scares here are what really works because you have no idea exactly what’s going to happen next and there aren’t too many jump-scares as much as they are just little shocks here and there. I also liked how Antal always kept the film going, never really stopping for some sweet and melodramatic moments as most horror films try to do, so they can give their characters some depth.
The plot here as well feels as if these guys didn’t even sit-down and think about it, which is a good thing and at the same time a bad thing. The reason it’s good because it gives me this 70’s B-movie feel where everything is all grimy and dirty, and the scares are small but effective. But at the same time, it’s bad because the characters still fall for the same dumb stuff that almost every other character does as well. Many moments in this film, I thought were incredibly stupid because they kept on doing the same thing over and over again, and I felt like if I had been in this situation I think I would have known how to get myself out there safely.
The obvious holes are also here as well. I didn’t understand why the killers/owners of this motel would leave their snuff films lying in the same room for somebody else to see and be less surprised when all of the crazy ish starts to happen. There was also another problem I had with this film like how these baddies got in and out of the rooms: climbing through a tunnel full of rats. Never made much sense, as do many other parts with this flick too.
It’s weird to actually see two stars such as Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale take up two roles like this, but they do a very good job as David and Amy Fox. Both of them are pretty good with what they do here and although the script doesn’t really try too hard to build them up (except for a dead child angle, which seems totally forced), they both play up the “couple with problems” act very well. The real star of this very small cast though is actually Frank Whaley as Mason, the motel owner. You can tell he has a little bit of Norman Bates in him but with a funnier and wittier side to him as well. Every time Whaley was on the screen, I had these little chills and it’s just a true showing of a very good small-time actor.
Consensus: The direction is very tense, and the scares work in a B-movie horror kind of way, but Vacancy has problems with it’s numerous plot problems and a very cheap way of keeping the story going, without giving us any real resolution.