Judge Gordon Sullivan reviews a movie that got panned by Triple-A.
If the camera is on, you're dead.
If this film is on, you're desperate.
Why do studios try to cash in on a successful movie by stripping away those things which made the original film successful in the first place? Vacancy took two well-known (if not widely respected) actors, put them in a creepy motel in the woods manned by a creepy concierge (Frank Whaley!) and terrorized them. Vacancy 2: The First Cut replaces those name actors with people you've probably never heard of, doesn't spend much time in the creepy motel, and tries to tack on a mythology. It's not a horrible product, but it's the kind of film that's watched because everything else at the video store is rented.
For Vacancy 2, we get to see the origins of the horror at the Meadow View Inn. It turns out that it started as an anonymous porn factory, where the proprietors would film couples having sex in their honeymoon suite and sell the tapes to a distributor. While watching one day, instead of their typical sex they see a man murder a woman. Their distributor thinks he can sell the murder video for even more than the porn and an industry is born. Enter three hapless young friends who must stop at the Meadow View Inn now that murder is the name of the game. Like their counterparts from the first film, the group discovers they're being watched and the chase is on. Naturally there are a number of murderous mishaps as our "heroes" attempt to escape.
Vacancy 2 is strictly a paycheck movie. Everyone involved demonstrates a minimum degree of competence, but there's no creative spark on display. This is a by-the-numbers affair. Aside from an opening scene with a newlywed couple who are just looking for a place to have sex, the film stays with the villains or the protagonists as they play their game of cat and mouse. It's hard to find fault with a movie like Vacancy 2, since just about everyone who watches it will have low expectations and the film manages to meet the minimum requirements of thrills and kills. I just wish these kinds of films would spend a little time trying to create characters that anyone would care about. Both the main characters in Vacancy were despicable (and I wanted to see them die), but that's better than the bland cutouts of Vacancy 2. Still, most viewers don't watch a film like Vacancy 2 for the characterization.
My only serious complaint about the film is that the ending makes it hard to believe the operations at the Meadow View Inn would be allowed to continue long enough to make the events in the first Vacancy possible. These questions are addressed in a deleted scene, but even that explanation strains credibility a bit.
Sony treats this sequel/prequel to Vacancy with care on DVD. The anamorphic image is clean with good detail. Many of the film's scenes are shot in darkness, and the transfer has no trouble reproducing deep blacks while keeping noise at bay. It's not the prettiest picture to look at, but this transfer presents the film well. Dialogue isn't a huge part of the appeal of Vacancy 2, but the audio handles both dialogue and effects easily, with no distortion or imbalance issues.
For extras, the disc offers up a few serviceable offerings. First up is a commentary with the cast and filmmakers, including director Eric Bross and producer Hal Lieberman. This track is very laidback with lots of chatting, although quite a bit of production detail is revealed as well. There is also a pair of featurettes. One covers the making of the film, while the other focuses on the Inn set. Neither is particularly extensive, but they cover the basics for fans. Finally, there are some deleted scenes, one of which fleshes out the ending to make it a bit more satisfying.
Like a paint-by-the-numbers canvas, Vacancy 2 might not be art, but it's not a total waste of time for those looking for survival-horror thrills and chills.
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