JANUARY 22, 2009
" I'd like to see one of these movies where the would-be victim turns out to be Spider-Man or something. 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." -BC, Vacancy review.
Well I guess I have no one but myself to blame for the dullness that is the prequel Vacancy 2: The First Cut, which indeed DOES tell the story of the hotel guys’ first attempt at making a snuff film. The killers aren’t totally incompetent (they manage to kill 2 out of 3) but they apparently haven’t reached the point where they are scary or interesting.
At this point I’m gonna have to go ahead and demand that Joe Lynch teach a class or something on how to make an effective DTV sequel. Wrong Turn 2 isn’t perfect, but it’s far more ambitious and interesting than anyone expected, and Lynch fully embraced the freedom that comes with not having to worry about getting the movie on 3000 screens. On the other hand, Vacancy 2 even has the same writer as the original (the movie even offers an otherwise pointless “based on characters created by” credit to make sure we know that), but not only does it fail to capitalize on the benefits of not having to cater to a multiplex audience (i.e. offer up NC-17 style gore or nudity, give a downer ending, etc), but it actually manages to make the original – a big theatrical release with A-list stars- look hardcore in comparison.
Right off the start we know we’re in trouble. The hotel guys are not killers, but seedy entrepreneurs who use hidden video cameras to make “porn” when guests stop in to fool around - yet the couple they are filming are fully clothed as they fuck. Watching still camera porn is boring enough, but who the hell would want to watch one where you can’t even see skin? But then a serial killer comes along, and they blackmail him into helping them revive their video export business by making snuff films together.
To be fair, it’s not the worst idea for a setup. Seeing the hows/whys of the villains, with the victims being just anonymous filler, would actually be pretty interesting I think, especially once they introduce the idea that one of them is having second thoughts about being associated with murder. But then Agnes Bruckner and her boyfriend and his best friend show up, and it becomes a lame remake of the original, with them quickly noticing something is wrong and then trying to escape their tormentors. But whereas the original was confined to the hotel, Mark L. Smith’s script blunders badly by having the characters run away. So we get scenes in the woods, scenes with some good Samaritan neighbors, etc. There’s no tension whatsoever in the film, because you feel like they can simply go anywhere.
Worse, Bruckner’s character is revealed to be pregnant early on, and since there’s no nudity and no gore (her boyfriend’s death is so vague I momentarily considered that it was staged), you know the movie doesn’t have the balls to kill her off. So once the other guy is dead the movie is just treading water until it reaches its required 85 minute mark. Thankfully, Bruckner’s method of dispatching the guys is pretty badass, but it’s hardly enough to save the movie at that point.
And so much for seeing things from the killer’s POV – they never really fight amongst themselves or “switch sides” or do anything interesting, nor do they ever really develop into personalities. The irony is, since I couldn’t remember what the guys in the original looked like (besides Frank Whaley) or their names or anything, I wasn’t sure which ones would live or die, so I was actually more interested in their fates than anyone else. As I later learned, the serial killer guy was the only one to reprise his role, though I don’t recall any of the villains in the original film having the severe burn marks his character receives in this one (again – this is a prequel that allegedly leads up to the events of the Kate Beckinsale one).
Speaking of the rather flimsy “prequel” connective tissue – the motel in the film is actually NOT the same one as the one in the original, though the office looks exactly the same and it seems to be in the same remote location. The end of this film shows the killer guy setting up the Pinewood motel from the first one, but it looks nothing like it and seems to be located on the side of a desert road, instead of in heavy forest like it should be. Plus, how does he buy a hotel anyway?
Sony apparently doesn’t think the movie is as big of a waste of time as it is, loading the DVD with features (and audio tracks – they even provide a Thai language track!). There are 3 deleted scenes of no consequence, a pair of featurettes about the making of and the set design (pretension alert – the director is proud of the fact that the main motel building is an inverted V – V for Vacancy!), and a commentary track with even MORE pretension, as director Eric Bross and the others point out how the film resembles Night of the Hunter, Godfather II, Aliens, and other films that don’t belong in the same sentence as this dud of a movie. Interestingly, at one point I began playing Facebook Scrabble to keep myself from falling asleep listening to it, and a few minutes later they reveal that they played Scrabble to kill time on the set. It’s a shame they didn’t just keep playing rather than finish the movie.
What say you?