DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    Agnes Bruckner as JESSICA
    David Moscow as GORDON
    Scott G. Anderson as SMITH
    Arjay Smith as TANNER
    Trevor Wright as CALEB
    Beau Billingslea as OTIS
    Brian Klugman as REECE

    Rated R
    Studio: Stage 6

    Directed by: Eric Bross

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The first “Vacancy” told the story of how the folks running the Pinewood Motel were discovered to have numerous snuff films in their video library. This prequel tells the story of how a couple of sleazy motel owners went from making home-made voyeuristic sex tapes to the snuff films we all know and love.

Gordon (Trevor Wright) and Reece (Brian Klugman) accidentally videotape a drifter named Smith (Scott G. Anderson) murder a prostitute. They realize they could make money off this and set up their motel to be used as a set for snuff films. When three young travelers (Agnes Bruckner, Trevor Wright and Arjay Smith) stop by for an overnight stay, they are targeted as the first victims.

I will admit that I did enjoy the first “Vacancy.” While it dabbled into the torture porn arena, the film turned out to be more about the suspense than anything else. “Vacancy 2: The First Cut” follows that set-up. It’s not as good as the first one, but I’ve seen a lot less when it comes to direct-to-video sequels.

It was nice to actually see a true prequel for a change, showing how the characters started down the road we find them on in the first film. It also hits pretty close to home, considering that I’ve done more than my fair share of late-night highway driving, and I know I’ve stayed in motels like this one before. (In fact, I was at one eerily like this in Ontario over Labor Day a couple years ago.)

While this film is true to its predecessor, it does have a distinct direct-to-DVD feel to it. The suspense isn’t as sharp as it was in the first film, and the characters do tend to fall into all the same traps we’ve seen with horror movie leads before. Additionally, there were some plot points that seemed really out of place, especially when the victims run to a local family for some help, and too much characterization is afforded to Smith, making him less scary.

Finally, I would have expected a little more skin from a decadent standpoint, especially in their hidden-sex-tape phase. Sadly, all we get is some bad angles of an out-of-shape, fortysomething prostitute.

The DVD features make this selection a decent pick. There’s a commentary with the filmmakers and the cast as well as a couple deleted scenes. Things are wrapped up with two featurettes: “Caught on Tape: Behind the Scenes of Vacancy 2” and “Behind the Facade: Constructing the Meadow View Inn.”

People who liked the first one enough to want more but won’t be offended by a lesser direct-to-DVD film.

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