David (Luke Wilson) and Amy (Kate Beckinsale) are a couple on the verge of a divorce, their once happy union broken apart when their only child suddenly passed away. In their final public appearance as a couple they attend a large family function. We meet them on the way home, after they have veered off the highway and their car has broken down on a desolate country road.
Tired of the road and each other they find their way to a seedy motel. The innkeeper (Frank Whaley) is a creepy dude who makes Norman Bates seem like Conrad Hilton. He puts them in the Honeymoon Suite, a dirty, cockroach infested room with no heart shaped tug but enough grime to make germophobes scream. As they try to settle in, mysterious things start to happen. It seems there’s more wrong with this room that no hot water. Strange sounds come from next door and the in-room videos appear to be snuff films shot in the very room they are staying in!
Turns out they have stumbled upon the Cecil B. De Mille of snuff, a man who lures innocent travellers to his rooms, only to have them killed on camera. The quarrelling couple must plan their escape, but will they get out alive?
Vacancy is the latest in a series of hotel horror scenarios with titles like The Shining, Hotel Horror and Motel Hell, that should convince any right thinking person to just stay home, or perhaps, if they must hit the open road, to buy a Winnebago. The granddaddy of the all, Psycho, put people off showering; Vacancy should make people think twice about staying in run down, roach infested hotels that offer “killer” deals.
Vacancy is a fine, menacing thriller with a few jolts that should inspire a nightmare or two. Too bad the ominous atmosphere is shattered in the closing moments of the film when the director, newcomer Nimrod Antal, drops a Hiroshima sized cheese bomb just before the closing credits. Without giving away anything, I’ll say it’s a bad move that takes the audience out of the reality of the terrifying situation and brings an abrupt end to a movie that up until then had been a pretty good thrill ride.