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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Review

Vacancy DVD Review

Vacancy (2007) movie poster Vacancy

Theatrical Release: April 20, 2007 / Running Time: 85 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Nimrod Antal / Writer: Mark L. Smith

Cast: Luke Wilson (David Fox), Kate Beckinsale (Amy Fox), Frank Whaley (Mason), Ethan Embry (Mechanic), Scott G. Anderson (Killer), Mark Cassella (Truck Driver), David Doty (Highway Patrol)

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By Albert Gutierrez

The word "voyeurism" implies an illegal activity, an immoral pastime that isn't discussed in polite conversation. Yet many people are indeed voyeurs and don't realize it. Whether it be on a technical and global scale like The Truman Show or the simple action of observing through a Rear Window, the public has long been fascinated with other people's lives.
They'll glance casually at a neighbor's window, or follow them in the supermarket, wondering what is in their cart. When invited over to an acquaintance's place for dinner or a party, some will snoop around for anything interesting or incriminating.

Hidden cameras in a bedroom and binoculars on a balcony aren't the only tools of observation and the art of voyeurism is not limited to real people. Movies themselves are a form of voyeurism, with the characters the ones being observed, fictional they may be. Directing from behind the camera or watching in front of a screen, the continued dependence that people have for the cinema inspires filmmakers to create new and exciting characters worth watching. And supplying the characters are the throngs of celebrities and actors who the public already have a disturbing fascination with. Combining voyeurism with the horror genre isn't something new. One only needs to mention titles like Peeping Tom, The Blair Witch Project, and even Halloween: Resurrection. In Vacancy, voyeurism wields a double-edged sword.

Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson play the soon-to-divorce central couple of "Vacancy", who do some night driving on dark country roads at the start of the film. If there's something strange in your motel room, who you gonna call? The front desk!

We are already the voyeurs, watching as David and Amy Fox (Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale) get lost in the middle of nowhere. Their car breaks down and they find themselves forced to spend a night at a seedy motel until someone can fix their car. As they prepare for bed, we learn more about this couple. The two have come from an anniversary party for Amy's parents, and discuss their own nearly-finalized divorce as well as the loss of their son. There isn't a lot that we know about David and Amy, but the little we do already makes us sympathize with them. It's upsetting to see them so melancholy, though before we're allowed to feel more sorry for them, the phone rings... and rings... and still rings. It's soon followed by someone knocking on their door, over and over again. David goes to ask the manager (Frank Whaley) to confront the noisy occupant of Room 3, where the knocking is coming from. The manager eerily tells David that there's no one in Room 3, but he'll check anyway, believing it to be a college kid or drifter who climbed through the window.

Trying to pass the time before going to bed, David finds a stack of VHS tapes and starts watching some of them. He soon makes a disturbing observation: they are all graphic and apparently genuine murders that are taking place. Worse yet, after further inspection, he and Amy realize the murders are taking place in their very room, leading them to believe that they're next in line. Looking for ways to escape, they try running out into the open, where two masked men are already waiting for them.

With nowhere else to go, they go back to their motel room, and look for more ways to get out. However, despite many easy attempts for the masked men to kill them, they hold themselves back, as a way of turning the planned murders into a game, into a suspense film within a suspense film. Quite simply, the majority of the film is a cat-and-mouse chase around the motel, and while others could feel bored already and write it off as just another horror film, curiosity has already killed my cat. The little I knew about David and Amy was enough to keep me invested in their well-being, and I wanted to see them survive.

A mustachioed and old-looking Frank Whaley plays the "Vacancy" motel's strange manager. Why does it always feel like somebody's watching me? And I have no privacy -- Whoa-oh-oh

A usual slasher flick has multiple victims, who get offed one after another in some gruesome manner. With Vacancy, we need only to concentrate on David and Amy; thus, they are allowed a chance to plan and study ways to survive. They possess more than the previous victims, as they realize sooner what is going on, and are able to figure out ways to avoid a similar fate. It makes for more than just a slasher flick, a thriller that keep viewers thinking on their feet as much as David and Amy. It's not exactly the perfect horror-thriller movie or in a class with things like Psycho or The Silence of the Lambs, but Vacancy does have its strong points.
At a lean 85 minutes, the movie is paced extremely well, with the majority feeling as if it were taking place in real time. The camera shots help to provide both a conventional movie angle and the voyeuristic one as well. While we mainly see from the point of view of David and Amy, we're also treated to the watching them from the eyes of their potential killers, and at times, are even reminded that we the viewers are watching them.

Finally, one aspect that Vacancy does right by me is providing a suspenseful plot without the gratuitous violence or gore of low-grade horror films. In making sure that viewers don't always see how someone dies, it leaves it all to imagination, creating a more intense and terrifying atmosphere. Attention is paid more to the attempts at survival than at the attempts of murder, and for that I found myself really enjoying the film. The characters are a bit weak, and while I was already engaged in their backstory and found it to be enough, other viewers may not. The genuine care for each other and fear they have is well-played thanks to their portrayers. Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale obviously have better movies on their résumés, so they're allowed to do a substandard film once in awhile. And honestly, I'd rather watch two capable stars get through a film like Vacancy than two inexperienced no-names. I wouldn't want to heap too much praise onto Vacancy, it's still far from perfect. But it does its job of scaring the bejesus out of its victims and viewers, adding an interesting and gripping angle to horror films.

Buy Vacancy on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and 1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French)
Subtitles: English, French; Closed Captioned
Release Date: August 14, 2007
Suggested Retail Price: $14.94 (Reduced from $28.95)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Keepcase with Embossed, Holographic Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc


The single-sided disc provides the film both in its original 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio and an alternative 1.33:1 pan and scan hack job. Much of the movie takes place at night, yielding very strong black tones and a nice, eerie muted color palette. The picture is quite sharp, with the artistic blurs of some scenes helping provide a nice contrast. If there's one thing Vacancy can be awarded for, it's the overall cinematography. The camera is almost another character, moving along nicely when there's nothing to worry about, then shaking and panning frantically during the chase.

Audio is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 or French Dolby Surround. Early on, there is little music and more dialogue, thus focusing on a standard stereo or surround mix, but when we get to the more action-oriented scenes with the suspense building, the audio gets more powerful on all speakers. Throughout the film is a subtle score that enhances scenes rather than detract from them, allowing for a very even mix altogether.

"Vacancy"'s Alternate Opening starts at the end, where the Pinewood Motel has lots of "guests." Director Nimrod Antal discusses the movie in "Checking In: The Cast and Crew of 'Vacancy'." Thanks, Mom and Dad! A perturbed Luke Wilson peers into your soul, as part of the animated Vacancy Main Menu.


There are a few bonus materials provided,
with the first being an Alternate Opening Sequence (1:17). Instead of starting on the dark road with David and Amy, it begins with the conclusion's aftermath, making the actual film kind of a flashback that explains what has happened.

Up next is the featurette, "Checking In: The Cast & Crew of Vacancy" (21:38). Director Nimrod Antal, writer Mark L. Smith, and several producers are on hand to talk about how they approached the film and what inspired its story and anti-gore. Actors Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley, and Ethan Embry discuss their characters vaguely. Instead of thinly recapping the film with some production tidbits thrown in, the featurette actually focuses more on character interpretation and the movie's origins/themes and its production. Many weighty topics are discussed in this featurette, making me wish an audio commentary was recorded to expand on their comments.

Proving that voyeurism lives on beyond the movie, "Mason's Video Picks: Extended Snuff Films" (8:49) shows more of the snuff films shot for the movie. Alternating between clear picture and white noise, along with various distortions and frame jumps, this is really gory stuff to watch. After the first minute, I couldn't bring myself to watch the rest, so sue me if I don't feel up to snuff in providing a more detailed description.

"Raccoon Encounter" (1:27) is a brief deleted scene that thankfully got cut as it did nothing to forward the plot, beyond providing additional David/Amy arguing and -- surprise -- a raccoon.

Apart from the animated main menu, the 16x9 selection screens are static, with excerpts of Paul Haslinger's score playing continuously on a loop. As the disc loads, four skippable promos play for Blu-Ray in general, 30 Days of Night, Resident Evil: Extinction, and Vantage Point. These trailers are also available on the Previews menu along with additional ones for I Know Who Killed Me, Revolver, Perfect Stranger, Rise: Blood Hunter, Hostel, Part II, Bobby Z, and FearNet.com. The standard keepcase is housed in a slipcover, with the title cleverly conveying a neon motel sign, thanks to the magic of holography and embossing.

Amy (Kate Beckinsale) and David (Luke Wilson) would like to check out now, please! Use the Force, Luke!


The makers of Vacancy succeed at squashing slasher flick conventions while telling a survival story with brisk pacing and without excessive gore. Whether they choose to root for the killers or the victims, the film keeps viewers in extreme suspense. The DVD offers excellent video and audio quality, though it's less robust in the supplements department, where it provides only one worthwhile featurette among other unnecessary or violent bonuses.

If suspenseful horror films suit your fancy, then Vacancy is fairly easy to recommend as a blind buy.

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Reviewed August 10, 2007.

Text copyright 2007 DVDizzy.com/UltimateDisney.com. Images copyright 2007 Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.