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Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson in Vacancy

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Alternative Opening Sequence; The Cast & Crew Of Vacancy; Extended Snuff Films; Racoon Encounter.

AT A time when a lot of horror films seem to get their kicks out of how much gore they can splatter across the screen (Hostel, Paradise Now, The Hills Have Eyes 2 etc) it’s refreshing to find one that relies more on traditional scare tactics – and succeeds.

Vacancy is a trim but incredibly tense little chiller that adopts a Hitchcockian approach to terror. And while it does wimp out towards the end, you’ll probably be sitting too close to the edge of your seat to notice!

What’s more, it boasts two leads that aren’t normally associated with the genre who enhance the flow of proceedings.

Luke Wilson (yep, Owen’s younger brother and an actor more commonly associated with romance and comedy) and Kate Beckinsale play husband and wife, David and Amy Fox, who are forced to stop at a motel after running into car trouble on the way back from a party.

Once checked in, they realise that they’re being groomed to become the latest victims of the motel’s owners, who make snuff movies to order. Miles away from anywhere – following David’s costly shortcut – the hapless couple must cast aside their marital difficulties in a desperate battle to survive.

Nimrod Antal’s movie isn’t without its brutal moments but the emphasis is clearly on tension and raising the stakes.

As such, viewers are seldom allowed to relax once the scenario has been established and there are plenty of jumps along the way thanks to his clever camera trickery and adaptability with a lens.

Wilson and Beckinsale also make appealing leads, taking on an everyman quality that lends extra authenticity to their predicament. Viewers should be rooting for their survival, while coming to care about their difficult back story.

Wilson, especially, shrugs off his comedy persona with relative ease to create the sort of unlikely hero anyone can relate to. But Beckinsale is also good value, mixing vulnerability with rage.

Vacancy does lose its way during the third act amid some hopeless plot contrivances and a bodged ending – but it’s a better than average entry into the over-crowded horror genre that makes a strong case for imagination over gore.

Viewers are therefore advised to check in – even if they’re not necessarily fans of the genre.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 25mins