Despite the fact that this just appeared to be another generic thriller cashing in on the latest trends, I found myself quickly won over by the energetic and creative title sequence. It was so untraditional and fun that I was extremely aware that I was about to watch a movie, but now I also had a tone to watch the film with, and I was eased into an extremely enjoyable experience. Vacancy plays out like a puzzle unraveling, starting as a seemingly simple tale of two ordinary people, much like Hitchcock used in his films. Hitchcock films also put these ordinary people into extraordinary situations, and this is also the case in Vacancy, a much smarter thriller than I would have ever imagined.
Vacancy begins with a couple driving on a deserted road at night. Who they are, where they are coming from, and where they are going is not told or explained at the beginning of the film, as it might in a lazier script. Instead the film unfolds slowly, at first just giving little bits of information by the way they act together. David (Luke Wilson) looks exhausted and is bitter that Amy (Kate Beckinsale) has been sleeping while he drives. During this time he took a side road which nearly always leads to trouble. After they have car trouble they are forced to spend the evening in a motel somewhere in the middle of the wilderness. This is the last thing that a couple with a failing relationship wants to do, but they have no choice until the mechanic comes back in the morning.
The motel is as awful as you can imagine a bad motel could be, each room equipped with plenty of bugs and tasteless furniture. David and Amy’s room also comes with the additional perks of sudden knocks on the door leading to the room next to them. There is also phone calls which leads to even more mysteries with the programming on their television. Vacancy begins with the basics of horror; loud noises, using them effectively. Vacancy is a smart film that uses the modern elements and trends of horror set in the basic plot structure of a classic Hitchcockian thriller. After the noises from their neighbor they have nothing to do and the television doesn’t work, so they try the VHS tapes left on top of the VCR. All of these tapes seem to be slasher films, all taking place in a hotel room which looks a great deal like the room they are in.
There isn’t much to the story, other than a couple trying to survive, so if it is twists and turns that you are hoping for you will most definitely be disappointed. It isn’t the way the film turns out so much as how it gets there which is what makes Vacancy fun. It is the suspense in-between the predictable moments which allow the film to thrive. Too many movies like this dwell far too much on the gruesome aspects of the situation rather than the suspense and anticipation, which Vacancy has hit dead-on.