Vacancy (2007)

(Crackle Streaming, February 2016) As far as horror thrillers taking place in murderously dangerous backwater settings go, Vacancy is perhaps more noteworthy for what it doesn’t do. Considering that the plot has to do with an estranged couple being stuck in an isolated motel used to film snuff movies, you would expect the film to be very explicit in its gory violence. But while some sequences in Vacancy are indeed disturbing, it remains reasonably light-footed in its depiction of gore. Thankfully, the result is to bring the focus back on the lead couple’s growing dread rather than in-your-face disgust at the sight of bloody mayhem. It makes the rest of the film’s growing tension more effective and helps distinguish Vacancy from countless other very similar films. It helps that Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale deliver performances anchored in reality: While Vacancy gets crazier by the minute thanks to director Nimród Antal, it does start with a fairly astute first few minutes that cleanly establish the protagonists before dropping them into a long nightmare. Several sequences help answer basic credibility questions about the nature of the premise (as in: why “Run, you fools!” isn’t an answer) and the thrills keep going during the appropriately short duration of the film. While Vacancy is no classic, it has survived well as a competent genre exercise. It could have been far, far worse.

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