A lot or a little?
Parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this horror movie isn't for kids, even those who like star Luke Wilson based on his romantic comedies. The violence is bloody and, once it starts, incessant. The prelude is even worse (snuff tapes show horrific attacks on victims with big knives, with screaming women's breasts exposed). The female lead takes prescription pills to combat depression; language includes lots of "f--k"s and plenty of other swearing.
What's the story?
The victims are a pair of almost-exes: Driving on a dark, lonely road, David (Luke Wilson) and Amy (Kate Beckinsale) argue about everything, from getting lost on the road to a murky tragedy involving a dead son. They sink deeper into frustration and depression, blaming each other for not handling the tragedy acceptably, unaware that their relationship is about to get a jolt of hard reality. The car breaks down, and they find themselves stuck in a seedy motel run by a thoroughly odious desk clerk (Frank Whaley). It's not long before they realize their bad luck: No sooner does David notice that the videotapes left in the room are snuff killings (which take place in that very room) than someone begins pounding on the walls and doors. Their stalkers are ominous men in black who carry knives and wear masks. Amy and David quickly deduce that they're now the prey, at which point they start plotting a series of escapes, which -- thanks to no cell service, no car, and no civilization in sight -- keep failing. And so they keep getting cornered, which means they must return again and again to the Terrible Room, where they anticipate the gruesome fate they've seen on the videotapes.
Is it any good?
VACANCY opens with a bracing credits sequence that's all hard angles, stark colors (red, black, yellow), and terrific, '60s-style score. It's an efficient introduction to a movie that knows just what it is: Eighty minutes of mostly entertaining tension punctuated by violence engineered by a nerdy creep using criminally outdated technology.
As contrived and regular as the couple's situation soon turns (they tearfully reunite in jeopardy, potential saviors don't work out, every door leads to another yucky room, etc.), the movie maintains a nervous pace and a lively look made up of skewed angles, ooky lighting, and all sorts of handheld commotion. Neat in its own grisly way, Vacancy delivers what it promises.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that many horror movies use a familiar formula -- protagonists stuck somewhere terrifying -- to put viewers in another familiar place: being afraid at the movies. Why do people like being scared at the movies? What makes some horror movies better at accomplishing this goal than others? Does it matter that many of them end in similar ways? Families can also talk about how Amy and David's experience in the motel brings them back together, as their past becomes less important than their efforts to survive.
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