There's nothing more invigorating than a good scare, but since I'm jaded, it takes some expert moves to get the job done. Off the top of my head, the last film that disturbed me was Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles. See? It takes a lot to freak me out. But props go to director Nimrod (hee hee) Antal's Vacancy 'cause I was really feeling the fright.
This economical (80-plus minutes) thriller drops you right into the action, with nary a bit of annoying character development to bog it down. Amy and David Fox (a pill-popping Kate Beckinsale and very grumpy Luke Wilson) are en route from a family event back to LA, where they will finalize their divorce. In an oh-so-shocking twist, the embittered couple breaks down on a dark country road where they have no cell phone reception. But a seedy motel awaits two miles back. Let the scares begin!
Little does the couple know, this sleazy flophouse is the killing grounds for the dodgy motel manager (the brilliantly spastic Frank Whaley), who uses unsuspecting guests as stars in his grainy snuff films. The set: Room #4, featuring a dozen cameras designed to capture the guests' fear as they're brutally stabbed and beaten to death. But Amy and David are pretty smart cookies, staying one step ahead of him through a series of tense cat-and-mouse face-offs. We're talking tunnel chases, car chases, and numerous standoffs executed in perfect knuckle-biting form. The sense of suspense and claustrophobia is pitch-perfect.
Vacancy is a little gem, a nasty little thriller that will leave you disturbed and entertained, if not intellectually challenged. 'Cause there are those days when everyone needs a sweaty Kate Beckinsale and a grimy Luke Wilson duking it out for their lives.