Vacancy (2007): Remember When?

Still from film with Beckinsale and Wilson as the Fox couple
Watching the Hitchcockian thriller Vacancy, with Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson, the first thing that springs to mind is a sort of “remember when” game. Going back a few years to a time before cell (mobile) phones became smart and a time when not every vehicle had a GPS in it. The film recalls the helplessness of travelling without those modern safety nets. Of course, at one point Beckinsale’s character goes to use her cell phone but it has no signal.

In this world, apparently, unlike the “real world” the two people in peril do not each have a cell phone. They also rely upon an old fashioned mode of navigation, in other words, a map. The television that comes with their room (a homicidal killing room in fact) has an old-fashioned telly and a videotape machine with VHS footage of prior victims to watch.

The film itself is a sort of homage to Hitchcock type thrillers and it works extremely well. Sadly there was a sequel, but I have never watched it. The first feature works like a highly tuned orchestra and hits all the right notes. Anything else would be a pale echo of this piece and its original content.

Everything about Vacancy works. In the casting department, Wilson and Beckinsale make a believable couple as the Fox’s. Even more, the two deliver as parents who have lost a child with each handling the dilemma and their grief very differently. The underlying tension from their decision to end their marriage provides a great counterpoint to the increasing stress of the situation and a little comedy relief as well.

The hotel manager, Mason, played by Frank Whaley is perfect as the annoying ass that would lose more customers than gain with his attitude and priggish behavior. It is not really surprising that people, who end up staying in the human version of the “Raid Hotel,” are tricked into doing so. If they had a choice, the manager’s aura of obvious jerk-wad would drive them all off.

This all goes toward making us, the audience, uncomfortable with the place. On top of the manager and the reception area, everything about the room itself is disturbing. Right down to that awful green motif that did not look good in the 1970s when avocado was the winning color for most kitchen appliances.

Beckinsale’s character Amy Fox states firmly that she is “sleeping with my clothes on.” Wilson, as husband David, adds that he will be sleeping “with my shoes on.” Giving us further proof that we were not wrong to be “grossed out” and disturbed by this room. The “badness” of the place is apparent even before the giant cockroach is seen falling off the bathroom light switch.

The motel room looks like pretty standard fare. Tacky colors, questionable housekeeping standards and a slapped together style of decorating, the only thing missing is a coin operated “magic fingers” massage machine by the headboard of the bed. (Another remember when moment for me; I recall quite clearly begging my mother and father for quarters when one of our holiday hotel rooms had this marvelous contraption attached to the bed. Later, when my parents could afford more expensive motel rooms, these great jiggling machines disappeared from my young vacation life.)

During the special features of the Blu-Ray DVD, the film’s creator, director Nimród Antal talks about seeing these rundown and seemingly deserted motels by the side of the road and wondering how they managed to keep running. Sort of a real estate version of the lights being on but no one, like customers for instance, being home.

These slightly derelict inns gestated into Vacancy along with the weird, creepy and deadly guys who run the motel that the Amy and David are forced to check into. The feature also owes a lot to the myth of the “Snuff Film.”

This particular urban myth is fairly persistent and has generated a number of films and books about a movie where someone is actually murdered onscreen. A sort of ultimate thrill for the world’s sickest voyeurs and of course for as long as the rumor of these films has been around so has the insistence that they do not really exist.

A kind of cinematic version of the boogeyman, if you will, where experts (like parents) tell the public (children) that no such “monster” exists. A film type of “closet monster” which continues to be whispered about and that certain people swear really are out there to be viewed by the stubbornly curious.

By the end of the film, which also has a distinct Alfred Hitchcock feel to it, the audience is drained from all the suspense that this thriller has thrown at it. Vacancy is quite a short film at 85 minutes and it drives forward at a frantic pace. Each scene spins into the next with little respite for the film’s characters or the viewer.

But besides all the nail biting suspense, the film harks back to days when real keys opened your room door and not some sort of electronic card. Motels were these quaint one level affairs where, if you were lucky, there was a pool in front and the vending machines had a pretty good choice of snacks for way under a dollar. And of course “magic fingers.”

23 January 2015

Smacked Upside the Head With Another Tag!


I was sitting here minding my own business when Sandra over at Quirkybooks reached right out and smacked me upside the head with another blogging tag! OUCH!

Seriously, I have to thank Sandra for thinking of me (I will get you back! *evil laugh* heh, heh, hehhhh.) Kidding aside, I always feel two things when I get tagged or nominated; 1) Surprised, and 2) happy. I should also mention that I feel a great deal of trepidation as I tag or nominate just a few out of everyone that I follow.

This particular exercise in sharing the WordPress love (pronounced lurve) is fairly simple, you answer the 11 questions posed by the “Tagger” and then set another 11 questions for the 11 bloggers you “Tag.” And how many times can you get the number 11 in one sentence. I feel like the Count from Sesame Street! You probably should link back to the blogger what “brung ya.” Aka, who tagged you and maybe thank them? Just a thought.

So here are Sandra’s 11 questions:

  1. Have you ever been made redundant from your job and how did you feel about it?
  2. If you were interviewing someone for a writing job, what 3 qualities would you look for and why?
  3. What is your favourite board game and why?
  4. When you look at the stars, what do you see?
  5. When you look at the ocean, what does it remind you of?
  6. How do you overcome writer’s block?
  7. If you could say 3 encouraging things to another person, what would they be?
  8. Do you prefer to write your stories/books/poetry/prose/articles on paper first, then type them up and edit them, or do you like to type them straight into your computer to edit?
  9. Do you like writing in one genre or more?
  10. As a writer, do you think actions speak louder than words?
  11. What is your favourite quote and why?

And here are my answers:

  1. Yes. But like the CNA Wing Commander once said, “I’ve been fired before and I’ll probably be fired again. Well, I’m still here!
  2. Vocabulary, spelling and personality (both in their writing and their self presentation).
  3. Scrabble, even though I always start off huge and wind up losing by the end of the game. Just a glutton for punishment I guess.
  4. Blurry images! My eyesight leaves a lot to be desired in the dark! Also how small we are compared with the cosmos.
  5. Jaws, salt, and Capt. Ahab.
  6. The last time I had writers block was years ago and it took years to get over, I did this by writing a blog, sort of a detour.
  7. Don’t take life too seriously; Don’t sweat the little sh*t, and Don’t worry about life, you’ll never get out of it alive!
  8. Always on computer/word processor. Before that, on typewriter. When my mind cranks up, long-hand is too slow and if I try to keep up, I cannot read what I’ve written!
  9. Horror and westerns (although to be truthful, I haven’t started writing my western yet).
  10. Yes, especially in a short story, which is my favourite type of story to write…hmmm, should that have been included in 9?
  11. “Sure life is hard. It kills you.” – Katherine Hepburn. She had the same attitude to life that my grandpa did.

Now here’s the part that I always dread. I think that to save time and energy (and a whole lot of guilt) I’ll pick 11 names out of a metaphorical hat (a la Bullwinkle) and the blogs are:

  1. Benedict Inman: Living and Learning
  2. Crazy Goblin Magazine
  3. True Mister Six
  4. Andy Watches Movies
  5. Written in Blood
  6. Cinema Schminema
  7. Films and Things
  8. The Cinema Monster
  9. this man’s journey
  10. The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger
  11. Mr Rumsey’s Film Related Musings

That concludes my random picks. If I missed you out, “I’m sorry!” There’s just so many of you who I’d like to choose!

Still, I hope to learn more about the great folks who follow me and it just remains for me to say, “I’ll be reading you later!

PS: It’s now 2158 GMT and I only just found out that I sent this puppy out missing a little something! I inadvertently deleted my cheeky statement that said, “Due to laziness and the fact the the questions that Sandra asked were damned good ones, the 11 folks I pick should just answer those.” That should have come after the “save time and energy and before Bullwinkle! Now that’s sorted.

Cheers, all the best!
Cheers, all the best!