The bored husband pops in a tape, and sees what appears to be a clinically violent horror film. Only the carnage looks eerily real, like the victims are really being hacked to death.
And the room looks eerily like the one they're in.
Suddenly there's a crashing at the door . . .
It's a good set-up. Spooky, efficient, and Wilson and Beckinsale do a nice job establishing their characters, with just a few brushstrokes, as a couple who've fallen apart because their child has died.
The movie is sort of like a Wes Craven version of "Babel" - two people striving to cope with grief suddenly find themselves in a position to fight back against random death.
There's even a self-referential, "Scream"-ish angle. Once Wilson's character deduces they've stumbled into a snuff-film factory, he examines the VCR tapes to study the methods of the filmmaker/murderers, looking for a pattern that might suggest an escape strategy.
The way "Vacancy" places movie-making on the same plane as murder would seem to create space for some sort of postmodern commentary (implicit in the title?) about graphic violence in horror movies.
But "Vacancy" isn't a commentary, just another graphically violent horror movie, traveling a well-worn path - urbanites wandering into the countryside and being accosted by rural weirdos.
It has nothing to offer in the end but carnage, and what appears to be one of the most fraudulent test-audience re-shoot endings ever filmed. *
Produced by Hal Lieberman, directed by Nimrod Antal, written by Mark L. Smith, music by Paul Haslinger, distributed by Sony Pictures.
LIEBERMAN INTERVIEW: Page 64