Story: Amy and David Fox are a couple in an failing relationship driving across the country, when they take a wrong turn and become stranded at a motel out in the middle of nowhere. They discover a series of video tapes in their room which reveal that the motel is actually a front for an underground “snuff” film ring, and they’ve just been selected to be the latest victims!

The Film Itself: Here’s another one I wasn’t sure I’d be into, but considering the simplicity of the story, which treads into PSYCHO territory (PSYCHO being one of my all-time favorite films), and the strength of the cast (I like both Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, even if I’m not a HUGE fan of either), I was definitely curious to see what this movie had to offer. Also, films like MUTE WITNESS and the Spanish film THESIS that run with the whole “snuff” film storyline and are among two of my favorite movies. I wanted to see how they could stretch out this premise with a very small cast and by limiting it to one motel room. Surprisingly, this is in fact one of the more stylish, suspenseful and (at times) terrifying films I’ve ever seen. The film starts with us in the middle of an argument between unhappy couple David and Amy Fox. It’s immediately obvious that these two have been together for a long time and are at the end of their relationship. Later, it’s hinted that they both had and lost their only child, which probably contributed severely to the deterioration of their marriage. I have to give both actors props. They convinced me that they are a miserable couple right off the bat. But David shows little signs of hope for their relationship. Then, after a creepy encounter with Ethan Embry (Didn’t he just do creepy in that Masters Of Horror episode?) and an “incident” with their car, they are stranded in a motel with the even creepier Mason (Frank Whaley in a performance that gives Norman Bates a run for his money.) At this point, I feel uncomfortable enough being in the middle of this relationship between these two whom constantly take cheap shots at each other. Then, someone starts pounding on their door. David discovers the “snuff” video tapes, and it becomes obvious almost immediately that someone is toying with them before their inevitable murder, which will of course be filmed via a series of hidden cameras in the motel room. At about the 30 minute mark, I was scared as fuck. Seriously. I was in their place and had no idea what the hell I would do if I were them. All of a sudden, all those snide remarks and bitter arguments seemed trivial compared to the will these two suddenly had to get out of there and in one piece. (And most importantly, with each other.) From here on in, I don’t want to give anything else away, but I will say I was on the edge of my seat trying to guess what would happen next for the remainder of the picture. (And I didn’t guess right.) Yet again, bigger props to both actors once the shit officially hits the fan. I’m used to Luke Wilson being the “funny” guy in most films, but the determination and change he undergoes during the course of the film is great. Even Kate Beckinsale (who covers her British accent) becomes someone you immediately pine for, even though she gives David shit for the first act of the film. (Let’s face it, she’s pretty darned hot too.) I really, really loved this movie. It’s the type of thriller/horror movie that I miss. And it clocks in at 80 minutes making it extremely fast paced. Highly recommended.

Special Features: The DVD features a Behind-The-Scenes featurette that talks to all the actors, as well as director Nimrod Antal (I swear that’s his name) and the producers of VACANCY. It’s short but an entertaining making-of featurette. I was especially impressed with the fact that they built the motel on a sound stage! (Ironically enough, the same sound stage where The Wizard Of Oz was filmed!) There’s an alternate opening, which while kinda cool, but gives away all the key plot points of the film. I guess they were going to start the movie with a look at the aftermath and then let you fill in the blanks along the way, but I think they made a wise choice eliminating this opening and going for the one currently in the movie. There’s extended footage of the “snuff” material, but believe it or not, I had to turn it off. I kind of wish they didn’t bother including it. Sure, it’s a neat little bonus, but that is the type of “horror” that’s very, very upsetting to me. (I don’t like watching people being tortured!) And what you imagine those tapes to be from the glimpses we get is enough a sfar as I’m concerned. Watching them is horrific, even if they are fictional. They still totally feel like “snuff” films and it’s disgusting. Besides that one little thing, I loved the movie and I loved the DVD. –Robg.

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