How fortuitous that while a debate about B movies rages on, something close to the genuine article slinks into theaters. Even though this thriller from Nimrd Antal (Kontroll) is a little ho-hum, it does boast some classic grind-genre ingredients: a couple (Wilson, Beckinsale) stranded in the middle of nowhere, a creepy motel with an even creepier owner (Whaley), a snuff-film ring and ornery locals who relish getting their hands dirty. Yes, the movie features two stars who reside on Hollywood’s A-minus list. But the burrowing forward momentum, the scant running time and the sheer glee with which Vacancy embraces its own no-nonsense trashiness? That’s a bottom-of-the-bill mentality in full bloom.
The bigger question surrounding this nail-biter isn’t “to B or not to B?,” but whether it’s trying to be an old-school suspense flick geared toward the Saw demographic or a milder version of today’s torture-porn horror chic. Violence is doled out sparingly in between technically flawless sieges and chase scenes; what we do see is nasty, grungy and visceral. Yet the short, sharp shocks feel gratuitously amped up to appeal to jaded thrill seekers (who’ll complain about the small portions) and too needlessly brutal for everybody else. Vacancy may be trying to bridge both worlds, but it ends up straddling the fence. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear