MOVIE: * (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
Dustin Harnish as TODD
Kristen Quintrall as CLAIRE
Alfred Thomas as JORDAN
Denyce Lawton as BRANDY
Christopher Michael Jones as RYAN
Rachel Sterling as ANNA
Jojo Wright as PHIL
Braxton Davis as STEVE
Cameron Diskin as BRAD
Dallas Lovato as NORAH
Directed by: Chris Stokes
BY KEVIN CARR
Back in the middle of the last decade, there was a push towards the appropriately-dubbed genre of “torture porn.” While punishment movies have been around since “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom,” “The Last House on the Left” and “Cannibal Holocaust,” the genre had reached the mainstream once “Saw” and “Hostel” were big moneymakers.
I’ve never been a fan of punishment movies, as I like to see at least a little bit of hope in them. However, there were some well done efforts, including the aforementioned “Saw” and “Hostel.” Back in 2007, Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale starred in “Vacancy,” which offered a mix of punishment and voyeurism. The sequel “Vacancy 2: The First Cut” was a bit of a dud, but that’s to be expected with a direct-to-video sequel.
It seems that “No Vacancy” is a sequel, but it is only sequelish by the name alone (which was changed for distribution from “The Helpers”) and some general subject matter. I imagine the “Vacancy” direct-to-video bloodline did not take off the way “Hellraiser” or “Wrong Turn” did, but doggoned if they don’t try.
“No Vacancy” sees a group of friends heading to Las Vegas for the weekend. They get two flat tires on a deserted road and hoof it to a local gas station and motel. There, the workers are very friendly and promise to fix their vehicle the next day. After a big party at the attached bar, the friends pass out in their motel rooms, only to wake up the next day as prisoners of the “helpers.” What follows is a string of torture, torment and murder based on a nonsensical version of revenge.
Let’s put aside my general distaste for hopeless punishment movies. Even without that standing in the way of me liking this movie, “No Vacancy” is so full of flaws that it doesn’t hold any water.
First, the victims are dumb even by horror movie standards. A series of mysterious road blocks and then not one, but two flat tires on a deserted road? No one finds this strange? Plus, there’s no suspicions about a group of overly friendly people who refuse to drive at night because “it’s dangerous” who give you free drinks and free motel rooms? Please.
The other huge problem is the characters. At the start of the film, the victims are such unappealing people that I couldn’t muster sympathy for them. Then, when they are finally in the lurch, the “helpers” are presented as a whimsical murder family that giggles and chuckles, yet seems completely bored about it. There’s overacting abound by the victims, sure, but the overacting and painfully irritating delivery of the helpers made me want to turn the movie off. The insane and giggling family in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” films are terrifying. The helpers in this movie are just annoying.
In the end, “No Vacancy” isn’t worth the short 81 minutes you have to invest in time. There are far better horror movies out there, ones that have been in theaters and ones that are cheap direct-to-video knock-offs.
Sigh… at least it wasn’t found footage (though the temptation was there).
The DVD comes with a small trailer gallery, but no additional special features.