Taut, grisly horror movie has unexpected bite.
Parents recommend
  • Review Date: August 13, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 80 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Murderers are brutal, mostly silent, and implacable; protagonists are surly at first, then generous in their efforts to save each other.


Brief discussion of a child who died before the film begins. Horror and chase scenes include scary pounding, a jump scene, and repeated efforts to inflict brutality. Snuff tapes are horrifically violent, bloody, and stark; they're left in the motel room to generate fear in victims to be; violence includes stabbing, neck cutting, kicking, hitting, and car smashing; bloodcurdling screams emerge from behind an office door (presumably from a TV); weapons include knives, a cable, and a six shooter. A horrified woman watches from a hiding place as her husband is stabbed.


Naked body parts visible in the snuff tapes (legs, breasts); desperate kissing by couple in danger.


Lots of language, including multiple uses of "f--k" (at least 26), in addition to repeated uses of "b--ch," "son of a b--ch," "goddamn," "s--t," "hell," "a--hole," with come colorful phrases too ("Stinky as an old whore," "I'll take care of this prick").

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

References to David's use of "trucker pills" to stay awake and Amy's prescription medication (Zoloft, Prozac); viewers see her take a pill, which causes her to fall asleep while hiding.

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.

Families can talk 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.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 20, 2007
DVD release date:August 14, 2007
Cast:Frank Whaley, Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson
Director:Nimrod Antal
Studio:Screen Gems
Run time:80 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:brutal violence and terror, brief nudity and language.

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byjjbeanz April 9, 2008

Fantastically scary and terrifyingly good!

I went to see this with my son, 13, and we both love horror movies, especially when there is lots of gore. We knew we would love this when the rating said "brutal violence and terror". Little did we know that this movie is actually just a suspenseful movie, with a little bit of PG-13 gore in it. The suspense in this movie is wonderful, and the plot is very well written. The characters do not act like idiots, they actually do some smart tactics. The language is somewhat strong, but it is mainly out of desperation and anger that it is used by. The nudity isn't used sexually, it is used to intensify the snuff videos. The most you see are breasts, but only for about 5 seconds. The gore isn't seen until the near end of the movie, maybe a teeny bit in the middle, but other than that, nothing bad at all. 14+.
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

The movie is vacant of talent...

Let me first say that this should have been rated PG-13, because it's basically the same teen horror that barely supplies any suspense. It's a good thing this movie had Kate Beckinsale and was short, otherwise I would have shut off the DVD player, because the acting was unrealistic, it wasn't scary, and the movie was so wooden and pathetic, it wasn't worth my money. Depending on how much your teen can take, this would be fine for middle schoolers and up. The nudity CSM says is in this movie is barely visible.


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