Hollywood has got a new workforce - European directors. The American ones went on an artistic vacation to refresh their minds and the newcomers begin to gain a worldwide popularity. Nevertheless, this phenomenon is known in the state of California for a long time. For instance, take Roland Joffe, whose "The Killing Fields" in 1984 was a ticket to the American movie industry or even the lately dead Italian artist Michelangelo Antonioni, who contributed with Hollywood studios and actors like Jack Nicholson ("Professione: Reporter"). The recruitment of European directors is still taking place. Recently, they proposed Nimród Antal ("Kontroll") to be in charge of the production of a new thriller, staring Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson, called "Vacancy".
A young married couple is on the verge of breaking their long relationship, caused by the loss of their only child. One night, their car brakes down in the middle of nowhere. After a short walk, they see a closed gas station and a motel nearby. Amy and David decide to stay overnight and wait for the opening hours of the station. They get a room with a TV inside. After a tough day, they want to loosen their nerves and watch some entertaining shows. Since the set doesn't retrieve any signal, David plays one of the videos that are laying nearby. He finds out that all of them are "snuff films" and their action takes places in the room they received…
After reading the synopsis and watching the trailer, many of you could have thought that another "commercial gore" production like "Hostel" or "Turistas" is being promoted. Furthermore, the so-called "snuff movies" are homemade videos presenting the sequence of events, while killing a human being, so analogies like this are very common and natural. Still, the whole film is completely unlike from the mentioned pictures.
The main purpose was to create a specific atmosphere in order to avoid the hostel-like sources of scaring. On the other hand, it all starts with this kind of terror. The low quality slaughter videos are the basic starting point of the feeling of tension. Luckily, the rest of the plot abandons this idea and directs the protagonists on a different path. Now, the trick is to runaway from the motel without being killed. Since the place isn't so big, there are not many possibilities to fulfill this task. This serves as an advantage. The climate is claustrophobic, many actions are presented in small and closed spaces, which resembles movies like "Phone Booth" or Wes Craven's "Red Eye". If you remember those productions, you will know what kind of terror to expect.
"Vacancy" also borrows many elements from the movie classics. In the beginning, the music mostly resembles Hitchcock's "Psycho" and even the background is the same (a shabby, remote motel). What is more, the runaway-from-the-motel motif is being captured in a traditional 80's slasher movies style. These kind of borrowings on one hand are very useful and lead us far away from the modern gore, but on the other are creating a schematic and extremely predictable approach. There is a typical Hollywood ending and the development of the plot. Nothing in this movie is surprising at any case.
Nevertheless, Nimród Antal made the picture a 85-minutes tension study. If it wasn't for him, the movie would probably gain another sequence of events. The realization is perfect till the last moment. The camera movement, the shots and the fantastic "psycho-like" music combined together give an incredible fresh view on the 80's cinema. Add to this a great acting duo Beckinsale-Wilson that play their parts in a excellent way and sometimes even try to make their roles more complex (to create an atmosphere of a psychological thriller), but the script is far more easier than they thought it would be.
The Hungarian director with his first Hollywood picture gives evidence that he is a good craftsmen in the movie industry. It's a good entrance ticket to gain financial support for more sophisticated and ambitious productions. "Vacancy" is not a masterpiece and many people were actually dissatisfied with the entire film. Sometimes, I would not even call this a finished movie. It looks as if it was a practice field for this young European director. He involves a claustrophobic tension as the main source of terror here, which results in a very old-fashioned type of entertainment. You must choose if this is an advantage or a disadvantage for you.