‘Script-o-matic’ makes for Hollywood flop

Ally Melling

Let’s face it: It’s officially thriller-movie month. After a string of psychological nail-biters such as Disturbia, Fracture and Perfect Stranger, director Nimrod Antal and Screen Gems hops onto the bandwagon with Vacancy.

Unfortunately for moviegoers, Vacancy is anything but a gem. It might even be the biggest, ugliest lump of coal released into theaters since Are We Done Yet?

Vacancy stars Luke Wilson (My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Idiocracy) and Kate Beckinsale (Click, Underworld: Evolution) as David and Amy Fox, a bitter, estranged couple in the middle of a divorce after the death of their child. When a traffic detour from the interstate lands them broken down in the middle of nowhere, they find refuge at a shabby hotel run by a creepy manager (the highly underrated Frank Whaley of Swimming with Sharks, Pulp Fiction). In the hotel room, Amy and David discover a few mysterious tapes and pop them in to discover some pretty realistic movies of random people being murdered by masked men. But uh-oh! They soon find themselves fighting to stay alive after realizing the hotel room in the films is theirs and the people are really being murdered.

If this all sounds a little too simple and formulaic, that’s because it is.

Though Vacancy’s concept has plenty of potential, the film presents a predictable story with no twists.


Starring: Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley

Directed by Nimrod Antal

Distributed by Screen Gems

Rated R for brutal violence and terror, brief nudity and language

Stater rating (out of five):

Though it’s filed under horror, the only thing scary about Vacancy is the fact that it did well at the box office over the weekend. The masks the killers wear are more funny than frightening, and the only remotely tense part plays off common claustrophobia as characters shuffle around in underground tunnels. The snuff films that alert Amy and David also maintain a creepy level of violence.

Vacancy’s characters are sadly typical and cheesy, such as Amy’s pill-popping, abrasive inability to get over her son’s death or the sequence where David says he and Amy can “start over” if only they “make it out of this thing alive.” This is also an amazing world where people can lie on the ground for five hours, mortally wounded, and still be alive just for the audience’s sake.

And if you’re hoping for an awesome, big payoff with the bad guys in the end – forget it. The battle royale is simple, unoriginal and disappointing after all the build-up.

The movie also stretches every inch and still is only 85 minutes long, and the extra prolonging effort is obvious. The final five minutes are sadly unnecessary and seem to be added to save the audience from assuming the obvious.

Vacancy is chalk-full of wasted talent. We all know Wilson can be good in the right film – particularly when Wes Anderson is directing. Whaley, who was genius in John Hughes’ overlooked Career Opportunities, is perfect in the eccentric, Norman Bates-esque role. Awesome Can’t Hardly Wait star Ethan Embry even makes a cameo as a nameless mechanic and is sadly discarded.

Here’s a theory: To save money on screenwriters, Hollywood has a “script-o-matic.” Producers write a bunch of random words such as “murder,” “torture” or “boobies” on little pieces of paper, throw a handful of them into the machine, and a script composed of random-element selection pops out on a conveyor belt.

So, heed this movie’s theme and stay away. It may be open for box-office business, but Vacancy is definitely not where you want to spend your night.

Contact ALL correpsondent Ally Melling at [email protected].