One-hit wonder, Rockwell hit the charts in the mid-1980s with his paranoid little ditty “Somebody’s Watching Me.” That song could serve as the theme to this latest WPID – White People in Distress – film, “Vacancy.”
There is no more popular genre in film than suspense thrillers. Audiences get a sometimes-twisted rush from watching people in harm’s way. If that’s your pleasure, you’re sure to enjoy this story.
The Foxes, Amy (Kate Bechinsale) and David (Luke Wilson), are riding cross-country in the middle of nowhere late at night. To avoid busy traffic on the interstate, David takes the proverbial shortcut, which is anything but. He soon encounters car trouble and, with a salty wife in tow, the two check into the real “Heartbreak Hotel,” where you check in but usually don’t check out.
From the moment that this young couple settles into their room, a feeling of uneasiness envelops them and the audience. You know it’s going to get bad, but how much? The answer comes quickly when David discovers some tapes that show people brutally tortured and murdered in a hotel room that looks vaguely familiar. As it becomes evident that they can’t escape, the couple must figure out how to survive the night and fight off their attackers.
The film doesn’t rely on gore but on exceptional high tension. The problem with this film, as in most other films of this genre, is that the characters display poor horror-movie logic. Early on, David hears an ominous knock coming from next door. Instead of calling the front desk to report the problem, he barrels over to the room demanding satisfaction. These actions, and many other bad decisions, plague him and his wife in this story of dumb people doing dumb things.
With at least five stinkers so far this spring, this season has been enough to test anyone’s usual enthusiasm for new releases. The good news is that, despite its various shortcomings, “Vacancy” does give fans of horror films what they’re looking for: quick thrills, that constant sinking feeling in the stomach and, ultimately, a satisfying resolution.
If horror stories work for you, be my guest. If not, you might want to find a “Vacancy” in another theater.