Perfectly suited to the shabby delights of the hometown drive-in theaters of yesteryear, director Nimród Antal's creepy cockroach of a thriller feels less horrifying than it does curiously nostalgic. David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox (Kate Beckinsale) are a miserable, bickering couple driving back to L.A. when David's wrong turns lead them to the Pinewood, an old motel run by Mason (Frank Whaley, working his huge mustache and huger glasses for appropriate slimeball effect). But when David and Amy try to relax in their room, they discover a stack of snuff films that show a series of grisly murders committed in the motel. Once the couple realize Mason intends to make them the stars of his next snuff film, Antal (responsible for the 2005 Hungarian thriller Kontroll) smartly adheres to the no-frills demands of B-movie horror, eliciting impressive chills from old-fashioned suffocating dread rather than the now-usual gore. Meanwhile, Wilson and Beckinsale superbly execute everything that's required of their characters—namely, yelling and running. At a time when so many genre films go splat because of large budgets or big egos, the small-scale pleasures of Vacancy are a welcome surprise. Happily, the movie is exactly what you think it's going to be, only better.
Beckinsale and Wilson wave bye-bye to a happy divorce.
Opens at Lincoln Square and other theaters, Fri., April 20. Rated R. 80 minutes.