31 Days of Halloween: “Vacancy”

Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale star as David and Amy Fox, a couple on the verge of divorce, in the 2007 horror film “Vacancy.” Written by Mark L. Smith (who also worked on the screenplay for the American remake of “Martyrs”) and directed by Hungarian-American filmmaker Nimród Antal (his first English-language film), the movie is not necessarily a popular one, but it has its merits.

Early into the movie, we find that David and Amy have lost their son, which is part of what led to their strained marriage. They’re traveling home through an isolated area and stop at an auto mechanic’s shop (Ethan Embry is credited simply as the Mechanic) to ask for directions, but end up lost anyway. The film uses all the tropes you’d expect here: their car breaks down and they have no cell service, so they find the nearest motel and book a room.

The hotel manager, Mason, is played by Frank Whaley, who seems to have dialed up the creep factor to its greatest extent. His performance is one of the strongest in the movie, constantly wavering between his initial friendly demeanor and his true darker personality. The plot – and scares – don’t take long to start in “Vacancy,” though it’s at first unclear what is actually happening. What may be the scariest thing about the film is that it is something that could definitely happen in real life. David and Amy are targeted before they even get to their motel room and they have nowhere to go. And not to give too much away, but their fear and suffering is a bonus to those stalking them.

Despite the fact that the movie has a 56% score from critics and an even lower 42% score from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, it remains a creepy look at real-world dangers. It uses its share of tropes and has some very disturbing plot elements (it’s rated R), but it’s an effective horror movie to watch by yourself or with a small group in the dark. Plus, the fact that it hasn’t gained a cult following or been as popular as similar movies means it may be something new for you and your friends. You can buy the movie on DVD and Blu-ray, stream the movie if you have access to Starz, or otherwise rent or buy on Amazon, iTunes and Google Play.

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