(2007) dir. Nimród Antal
I won’t say that I am a sucker for horror films because that implies that I am always going to like them even when they suck. But I am almost always willing to watch them, even when I know that they are going to suck. It’s part of my attraction to genre film, the horror film in particular and all its many little sub-genres. But let’s face it, Vacancy is such a paint-by-numbers thriller, that if you have seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie. I mean, I was actually grateful when the major sequences depicted in the trailer actually finished playing out, so that I had the odd hope of something unique happening. It almost did. But it didn’t.
The movie, for those of you who’ve never seen the trailer, is about a married couple who check into one of these isolated old-fashioned, deeply in disrepair hotels when their car breaks down one night in the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere hardly exists anymore. The lack of automobiles depicted in this film is a complete anachronism. And with all it’s clear stealings from Psycho (1960), you know that this is a bad place to be.
The big difference in this film is that instead of a cross-dressing anti-social Psycho, they have a back-water hick team of snuff film-makers and a hotel room, set up to shoot the mass killings that take place therein. There, that is all you really need to know.
The film hints around at some metaphor of the pan-optic hotel manager and his suite of television screens set to capture the action, as director or simply film-maker and the poor suckers who check in to “check out” as the unwilling pawns or “actors” for his film. This could have gone somewhere I suppose. Hitchcock himself is said to have shared, either humorously or otherwise, this similar perception of the relationship of director to actor, though this one is more explicitly meant as sadistic.
The cinematography is the highlight, with some interesting compositions, uses of light and color, framings. The villain, the manager, is some amazing cross between Billy Bob Thornton and William H. Macy. Apparently, they somehow managed to have an offspring it seems.
The film lacks surprises, partially due to my exposure to the preview, but largely due to the whopping unoriginality of the script. The henchmen wear masks that give them that “Michael Myers” from Halloween (1978) appearence, and the twists and turns open only onto fronts that horror/slasher films have tread many times before. In a sense, there is a real genuine lack of ruthlessness here. The real fear of this genre is not knowing what will happen, who will survive, where the fear really lurks. For the only real fear is one of the camera, the all seeing eye, placed everywhere, inescapable, but that doesn’t inspire the fear exactly, at least not in the characters. Even though, there is much more reality in that aspect of real culture than there is in being stranded alone in an isolated spot of the boonies where three lone men are all that is in sight.