APRIL 21, 2007
It's tough being a sucker for brunettes such as Kate Beckinsale, the beautiful star of Vacancy. You end up seeing scores of crap (well, considering the nature of this blog, I guess that's unavoidable regardless of my hair color preference). Just about all of her films: Underworld, Serendipity, Click, Van Helsing, even Pearl Harbor (forget not: I am a lifelong follower of the church of Bay/Bruckheimer), take incredible patience. I can't deny it makes sense. Why waste a good script on someone who will get my ass in the seat either way?
Luckily, for once, this is a Beckinsale movie I can get behind (ironically, she was a replacement for Sarah Jessica Parker, an actress who could star in my own biopic and I wouldn't want to see it). It's sort of strange to see A-list actors going through the standard survival/breakdown motions, but that is actually part of what makes this one a cut above the other recent studio films in the subgenre.
Nimrod Antal is a first-rate director. That much is clear 5 minutes in. And the script is tight, with little to none of the usual crap that gets in the way of other films (though, of course, there is a backstory tragedy to contend with, but its given roughly 17 seconds of screen time). Even the title sequence is impressive (ironically, the DP on this film is Andrzej Sekula, who directed Cube 2, where the title sequence was the ONLY good thing in the entire movie). The obvious Psycho reference is pretty subtle, and we are even spared the 'opening kill' that just about every movie of this kind has. They knew that the bad guys would be identified to anyone who saw the trailer (this didn't stop half the crowd from gasping when Wilson tries to call 911 and it's Frank Whaley on the other line though), so no time is wasted in trying to make Whaley's character trustworthy, and the trouble begins less than 5 minutes after Wilson and Beckinsale check into the motel. It may be a short film (80 min) but not a minute is wasted.
The one flaw is pretty omnipresent in these films, so it's no surprise, but given the other ways that Antal and writer Mark Smith circumvent clichés, it was still disappointing. See, in these movies, we are always given the impression that the bad guys have been doing what they have been doing for God knows how long and never been caught. Yet, our heroes manage to stop them by not doing anything special. Beckinsale and Wilson are average, regular folks, just like the others we see in the snuff films, but they still manage to turn the tables on killers by.... hiding for a while. And running fast enough to lock a door. None of the dozens of previous victims could manage to come up with that? I'd like to see one of these movies where the would-be victim turns out to be Spider-Man or something. Hahaha, they go to kill him and hes like "you dumb bastard, I'm fucking Spider-Man!" and shoots a full cartridge of webbing down his throat. Or maybe they could do one where the group is on their first attempt (hey, they had to start somewhere) and both the good and the bad guys are equally incompetent.
Or fuck it, just do one where the good guys all get killed, once again.
But its still a good movie, even more of a surprise considering it comes from Uber-crap production company Screen Gems. Granted, the idea of putting Kate Beckinsale inside a seedy motel could have been better utilized, but take what you get.
What say you?