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Vacancy

DVD Three Stars
I saw Vacancy in the cinema and was surprised at how strong the story was and how they didn't go too Hollywood on the whole. How they managed to concentrate on the main characters and their relationship and how this managed to come through the action and the tension.

When I got the chance to review it on DVD I couldn't refuse, I really enjoyed the film and hoped that the DVD was going to give something new to the experience of the film, and I just wanted to see the film again and enjoy the performances.

Plot.pngVacancy.jpgLuke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale are a couple who are driving back from a party, heading a long distance home and driving all night to get home as quickly as possible. On the way back they swerve to avoid an animal in the middle of the road and something damages the engine. They stop at a nearby garage and hotel to try and get repairs, but find that they have to spend the night.

While in the hotel room they discover that there are cameras around them and they are being watched, even filmed, and it looks like they might not make it out alive.

However this is more thriller than horror, and the onscreen horror is kept to a bare minimum. Tension, scares and uneasiness are what the film delivers.


TheFilm.pngRead the previous Filmstalker review for the entire, more detailed film review.

The characters are very well written and portrayed, and Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson work really well together. She's not the typical hysterical female victim and they don't play the typical couple. Their relationship is very real, and the way it develops through the film is refreshing to see.

Frank Whaley is excellent and the three lead actors deliver strong performances in this dark and tightly directed film. The tension is kept high and with the help of natural and dark lighting, detailed sets and good camera work, the film really does deliver a feeling of reality in the terror and excitement it delivers.

There's a lot of ill feeling about the ending of the film and how the two characters relate in their relationship with each other. For me the relationship never intruded or took over the film, and on second viewing the writing of it appeared very real.

On the ending issue, without giving it away, I again think this is rather realistic and non-Hollywood. I'm forever complaining that when you see similar things happen in other Hollywood films there's a quick and final conclusion, here we see what might really happen to someone in a similar situation. I'll leave that cryptic for those who haven't seen the film.


Picture.png2.40:1
The picture transfer is really strong and looked fantastic. What was particularly good was the consistent darkness. The film showed a superb use of lighting to keep the setting dark and still highlight the characters and the action without dropping the need to drop a spotlight on the centre of things.

It retains a sharp picture with natural colours throughout, it's hard to believe that the entire motel was a set and all the night filming was done indoors.


Audio.pngDolby Digital 5.1
There's a great use of music throughout the film to raise the tension, and this works really well. The choice of tracks and their style really does help make you feel the panic of the couple in the film.

Just to set the scene, when I review a film I'm not focused on the individual details that I review, I don't sit there and check the colouring, force myself to listen to the left rear speaker and make sure there's a sound coming from it. I watch the complete film, get drawn into it just like a member of the audience, and I see what stands out or what makes the complete package.

So with Vacancy, although there was audio from the rear speakers, it never touched or intruded on the film. In fact I don't really remember the speakers being used individually, nothing stood out out from the individual speakers.


Extras.pngAlternate opening sequence, cast and crew featurette, video snuff films, Trailers
There's no audio commentary, and for me on any DVD that's a failing. Here, with Vacancy, it's much more of an issue because there is so much to talk about and from so many talented people from the actors to Nimród Antal himself.

Alternate opening sequence:
Then there's the interesting first extra which really does deserve some discussion. The alternate opening sequence is a fascinating change to the film. It would give the entire film a total different feel, almost hitting every single scene.

I think the way the film is right now is the best way, but I would have loved to see how the film would have played with this future looking opening. It's a well filmed opening and would make for a really interesting version of the film. So why no audio commentary for it? Better still why isn't there a way to watch the film with this opening in place of the theatrical one? I would have loved that.

Cast and crew featurette:
This is pretty standard featurette, but the content is much better than the average fare. There's some interesting insights into the huge indoor set that was made for the hotel, the camera work, the lighting and the set design. All interesting because the film is good. We hear from the director, stars, and some of the crew, even down to how they created the non CGI car stunt. Definitely worth watching.

Video snuff films:
The snuff films that the couple see throughout the film playing on the television and some of the monitors are shown here cut together in short sequences. Some are rather unnerving, others are pretty obviously faked, but in the film they work well, here they don't really have too much to give.


Overall.pngNimród Antal gives us a strong thriller with bags of tension that I was surprised held up so well on second showing. There's a great use of lighting and sets here, and strong casting, particularly with Frank Whaley. Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson give fantastically realistic performances and the portrayal of their characters relationship is also far less Hollywood and more real.

The DVD really does need an audio commentary, and not just for the film either but for some of the extras, and this really does take down the DVD offering. However those extras are better than standard offerings you see on DVD.

Overall I liked this film and DVD, it's a great thriller with strong writing and filming, plus Wilson and Whaley are real surprises.


Filmstalker film review
UK IMDB Film Details





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Comments

I was also a fan of Vacancy. Maybe the reason that some of the more hollywood pitfalls were avoided was that you hand Hungarian director Nimrod Antal at the helm. Don't know what the script was like before he got involved, but there are some nice touches in that film, particularly with the villians.

Kurt I think that's the main reason we saw what we saw, and why the villains were just so interesting.

How do you feel about the alternate opening?

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