Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Deliberately nodding to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, and in particular 'Psycho', the new movie from Nimrod Antal, 'Vacancy', also treads on similar territory to such recent films as 'Hostel' (and its imminent sequel, 'Hostel Part 2') and 'Paradise Lost'. Unlike these more sensationalist flicks, 'Vacancy' tries to keep the gore down in favour of some effective suspense.

The premise is very familiar. A young couple, who have recently lost their child in an accident, are heading for divorce. Driving home from a family get-together, they take a back road and, after some darn engine trouble, are forced to spend the night in a rundown motel. Complete with creepy manager (Frank Whaley), the Pinewood Motel recalls a multitude of similar setups, from the Bates Motel to the insane inn of 'Identity', so it is no surprise when they find a stack of video tapes showing murders in a room not disimilar to the one in which they are staying. Before long they are trapped and tormented by a sadistic band of homicidal filmmakers and fighting for their lives.

With the shadow of their dead child hanging over them, and a marriage collapsing about their ears, it is not difficult to see this whole nasty scenario as a rather extreme form of marriage counselling. Forced to work together to escape their captors, the couple find much of what they had lost in their relationship and there are many tearful kisses and apologies before the film's over. But then will either of them survive?

Given the name checking of other films, it is hardly surprising to find little originality here. Indeed, it often feels like yet another remake of some '70s movie. It does have its pluses though. For one it is short (85 minutes). This means that the central couple, played by Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, never become too irritating. Anyway, it's difficult to take their bickering all that seriously. Wilson especially, no matter how bitter and sarcastic he tries to be, can't help but seem like a nice guy, willing to sacrifice himself at the drop of a hat, not to mention take the blame for their predicament. And there is a certain fun in ticking each of the cliches off the list (nervy hotel manager, sinister figures revealed by lightning flashes, masked killers, cannon fodder cops, etc.). Yes, we've seen it all before, but then the filmmakers know that. If it all ends abruptly (and inanely), at least it was fun getting there.

So is it a classic in the Hitchcock tradition? Definitely not. Is it a fun night out? Go get your popcorn.


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