MSRP:  $19.94
RUNNING TIME:  86 Minutes
Commentary with Director and Producers
Caught on Tape Featurette
Behind the Façade Featurette
Deleted Scenes

The Pitch

“It’s Vacancy meets…well, Vacancy!  With a little dash of Psycho for good measure.”

The Humans

Director:  Eric Bross
Starring:  Agnes Bruckner, David Moscow, Scott Anderson, Arjay Smith, Trevor Wright

The Nutshell

A couple of skeevey hotel managers make a little money on the side secretly filming guests having sex and selling the tapes to truck drivers.  When their latest little roadside porn flick turns into a snuff film, things get rather interesting.

Billy and the boys loved to get together and play Pulp Fiction, but nobody wanted to be Marcellus.

The Lowdown

It doesn‘t suck!

Yeah, so anyway, in 2007, Nimrod Antal made his American filmmaking debut with a little sleeper horror film called Vacancy.  The story wasn’t necessarily original (a couple stops at a hotel for a little rest and end up having to keep themselves from being murdered all over the place), but Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale brought their chops and Antal worked the fuck out of the film, ratcheting tension up to almost unbearable levels.  If it weren’t for the bullshit copout ending, I would have loved it to little bitty pieces.

But, alas, this isn’t a review for Vacancy, it’s a review for Vacancy 2, which isn’t a sequel, but a prequel.  What?  Yeah!  A prequel.  I’ll admit – I thought it was a dumb fucking idea, too.  So much so that when I put it in to watch it I was predisposed to hating it.  A direct-to-DVD prequel for a movie that was only good because of the talent attached to it?  And you replace the leads with teenagers?  Fuck off.

Publicity still from Cronenberg’s newest – Vaginaface.

Color me surprised that not only did I not hate it, but I kinda dug the hell out of it.  Part of that was because of writer Mark L. Smith.  Having written the original, he had enough familiarity with the story to weave something tangible and interesting here.  We all know the inherent pitfalls and potential shortcomings of any prequel and he was able to avoid all of those and deliver something that flowed nicely into what we saw in Antal’s film, without being hampered or weighted down by it.  It really is its own story and it’s actually a largely creative, unpredictable one.  The initial conflict when our voyeur smut peddlers meet our psychopathic serial killer is pretty tense and, conceptually, it’s pretty ripe with cinematic potential.  Instead of seeing things strictly from the point of view of our victims, we’re given a sort of “behind-the-scenes look,” if you will, at our killers and the power dynamics involved in their new little endeavour.  Wondering what they’re going to do to one another is just as tense and interesting as wondering what they’re going to do to the kids.  And what follows is a bloody mess – bodies piling up with no regard for clichés or predictable story beats.

Replacing Antal behind the lens is relative newcomer Eric Bross, known (is he?) primarily for a medium-sized resume primarily made up of obscure television gigs.  But if Bross was new to features you wouldn’t know it here.  He brings a lot of good out of the cast (especially Scott Anderson) and is able to show a confidence behind the lens that is palpable, even if at times it does seem like he’s just jerking off with the camera.

“What?  We represent the Lollipop Guild.  You got a fuckin’ problem with that?”

What’s really impressive here is that this is Bross’ first horror film.  You wouldn’t know it.  Aside from one kill that provides the crimson but lacks the violence to match, he’s able to knock these people off in some pretty damned imaginative ways.  And even if it’s not imaginative and he just uses a shotgun, he does it with a steady hand and an eye for brutality.

Now, I don’t want to overpraise it – it’s not some great, seminal work.  It has its dull moments and the ending is a little muddled, but it’s got a great pace and is a fitting companion piece to its theatrical predecessor.  It’s definitely worth a rental, or even a blind buy if you’re one of those who just buys every damn thing they can.

The Package

The artwork does a great job of reminding us that this is supposed to be a boring, flat, lifeless, made for DVD movie (bait and switch!), because – well the artwork is boring, flat and lifeless.  And “If the camera is on, you’re dead?”  Fuck you, tagline guy.

In the bonus menus, we have a couple of Featurette – one just a talking head piece about the movie and how it came to be with the other a sort of production video diary on how they turned an empty parking lot into the film’s motel location.  Both are fairly interesting, but aren’t necessarily anything you’d want to revisit.

“You wanna see somethin’ REALLY scary?”

There are three deleted scenes, but they’re presented without any sort of commentary.  That’s not necessarily a bad or a good thing, but typical you’ll have the director tell you why certain scenes were cut and I honestly wouldn’t have minded it in this circumstance because what they show was decent and unless it was strictly for run time (which can’t be the case because this thing finishes in under 90 minutes) there really wasn’t a need to cut.

Rounding it all out is a commentary track with Eric Bross and some producers.  I didn’t listen to ALL of it, but what I did hear was interesting enough – Bross seems like a really likeable dude.

OVERALL 7 out of 10

Discuss this sucker on our MESSAGE BOARDS.