Amy and David Fox are crumbling after recently losing their young son in a tragic accident. So, driving back from a family reunion in another state, the two find themselves lost on a dark country road and nearing a meltdown point in their relationship. Barely avoiding an auto accident (and disabling their car) they grumble their way to a shabby motel called the Pinewood where they reluctantly decide to wait things out till morning.
Upon seeing the filth of their room, however, Amy says, "I'm sleeping in my clothes." David replies, "I'm gonna sleep in my shoes." David finds a videotape and pops it into the VCR in hopes of keeping his thoughts off their situation. To his dismay he discovers that the tape is a "snuff" film showing a couple being attacked and killed by masked men.
The evening goes from bad to worse when two other tapes left in the room reveal the same kind of horror along with the realization that all the movies were filmed in the same motel room they're currently in. And the cameras are rolling.
When David and Amy find themselves thrust into a life-and-death situation they realize how much they love and rely on each other. Both apologize, speak of starting over and give voice to their love. They also both put their lives on the line, each willing to die to save the other.
A policeman responds to a 911 call and slowly realizes the danger of the situation. He attempts to protect David and Amy, and loses his life in the process.
One short video sequence shows three young women being attacked, dressed only in panties and brief tops. One of the girls has her shirt ripped off before she tries to crawl away. Another is violently groped and slapped.
The motel manager makes a vulgar comment about whores.
The story uses shared kisses between David and Amy to help show us how their love and commitment is reawakening.
The snuff tapes that David and Amy watch are relayed to moviegoers in quick clips. We see the masked men beating and torturing a couple, pounding the woman's head against the wall, hanging a battered and bloody man by the neck, slapping, throwing, punching and stabbing three young women, and bludgeoning an old man. Equally disturbing are the piercing screams of pain heard, even when we don't see an accompanying picture.
A man is crushed between the front of a car and a wall. Blood pours out of his mouth. Another man hangs onto the top of a car as it swerves through a parking lot and crashes through a wall. We see him dangling—dead—through the car's sunroof. Yet another is stabbed in the stomach and he falls bloody to the floor. A policeman is stabbed in the back and thrown into the back of his car with his legs hanging out.
The motel manager and Amy fight, and we see him choke her with a telephone wire. Later, he's perched atop her pounding her viciously with his fist (she's offscreen). She kicks him in the face. He slaps, punches and throws her around the room. She shoots him in the chest several times and he lies in a pool of blood.
David breaks a mirror and cuts himself while trying to obtain a glass shard for a weapon. A man slashes out with a knife at David's ankles from a trapdoor. Amy cuts her thumb while slicing an apple. David and Amy crawl through an underground tunnel and find themselves surrounded by a flood of rats.
Crude or Profane Language
The f-word leads the foul language pack with over 30 uses. And middle fingers are flashed a couple of times. There are over 20 additional vulgar exclamations including the s-word, "a--," "d--n" and "h---." Jesus' and God's names are profaned a half-dozen times each. (God's is usually paired with "d--n.")
Drug and Alcohol Content
David talks of taking "trucker pills" to stay awake during the long drive. Amy and David both mention that Amy is taking medications to help with her stress levels. David says, "You slept for 300 miles thanks to your Zoloft/Prozac cocktail."
Other Negative Elements
At the beginning of the film, David and Amy argue openly, spitting bile at each other, especially when it comes to the subject of their deceased son ("Every time I mention his name, you take a shot at me").
My worst motel experience was in a seedy motor lodge called the Napa. The rooms sported magenta polyester bedspreads decorated with cigarette burn holes, shag carpeting that crunched beneath your shoes (home to a colony of some kind of jumping flea) and a smell that hung in the air like rancid gym socks. I decided not to spend the night.
But that was real life. In the world of slasher movies the victims always choose to stick around or shrug off screams they hear from an adjoining chamber before jumping right into the meat grinder. And, of course, they usually find that a disgusting room is the least of their worries. In Vacancy's case, it offers us a place reminiscent of that famous Eagles lyric, "You can check out any time you like/But you can never leave."
To the movie's credit, we are given central characters we can like. David and Amy argue a lot in the beginning, but it's a tussling that rings familiar. And as their dim world grows ever darker, we see them boiled down to their core feelings and realize that they are willing to give everything for each other. This flick also has villains who aren't seemingly omnipotent like many in the genre. And, wonder of wonders, the good guys actually have a chance at winning (an achievement defined by not dying).
However, just because it's not as gruesome and heartless a place as a Texas Chainsaw Massacre farmhouse doesn't mean that we should want to spend time in Vacancy's roadside inn. Because underneath its bloodied floorboards is a profane soullessness that urges us past the dismal things we've become (sadly) calloused to and offers us the "thrill" of backwater snuff films—screaming scraps of videotape that are repulsive enough to hear, much less watch.