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Vacancy

This is not a motel you want to stay at.

Vacancy

A late night detour leads to an unimaginable nightmare when an estranged couple’s car breaks down on a remote country road.  Finding themselves stranded on a dark and deserted two-lane highway, David Fox (Luke Wilson) and his soon-to-be ex-wife Amy (Kate Beckinsale) are forced to spend the night at a seedy motel run by an odd but seemingly harmless proprietor (Frank Whaley).  In their filthy, threadbare room, the bickering couple finds a cache of homemade slasher films that look disturbingly real. Once they realize the blood-soaked videos were shot in the very room in which they’re staying, David and Amy know they will be the sadistic filmmakers’ next victims unless they put aside their differences and work together to escape.

The concept for VACANCY had been percolating in the imagination of writer Mark L. Smith for almost eight years before it found its way to the big screen. While driving the back roads of New Mexico with his wife, Smith noticed a number of small, roadside motels that seemed to exist without any guests. “I wondered how they stayed open, where else they got their money,” recalls Smith. “The idea just kind of stayed with me.”

Smith knew that the key to making his story both terrifying and compelling was to create characters audiences would relate to. Taking a cue from master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, Smith realized taking the time to introduce David and Amy Fox and the nature of their fragile relationship early in the film would pay off later, upping the film’s nail-biting suspense.

 “The first twenty minutes, nothing terrible happens, but you get to know the characters and care about them,” he says. “You feel like, if it wasn’t them, it could be us.  It could be my wife and me – or anyone.”

The producers began searching for a director who could bring Smith’s script to life on the screen. Lieberman suggested Nimrod Antal, a young American who had recently completed his first feature, “Kontroll”, in Hungary.  An intense drama set almost entirely in the Budapest subway system, “Kontroll” had earned the Prix de la Jeunesse at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and created enormous buzz for the young filmmaker at festivals throughout Europe and the U.S. 

Kontroll was brilliant and extraordinarily well crafted,” says Lieberman. “It showed Nimrod not only knew what he was doing with the camera, but that he could sustain a unique and entertaining tone in a constricted environment. His take on VACANCY was to tell a story about two people and to make it real and make it powerful.”

 

For the roles of David and Amy Fox, the filmmakers knew they had to find innately appealing actors who possessed the stamina required for the physically challenging roles as well as the acting talent to sustain the high level of emotional intensity required.

Kate Beckinsale has starred in films that range from acclaimed indie hits including “Laurel Canyon and “The Golden Bowl” to big budget blockbusters such as “The Aviator” and “Pearl Harbor”. Meanwhile, her role as the powerful vampire Selene in the “Underworld” franchise has made her one of the leading female action stars in Hollywood. 

Beckinsale says she was drawn to the role of Amy Fox in VACANCY by the complex relationship at the heart of the story. “It seemed fresh to me to start a movie in a marriage that’s going really badly and then throw in a bunch of different circumstances that really test the relationship,” says Beckinsale.  “Once the stakes get raised to the point where it’s life and death, you’re left with just that one question of ‘Do I care about this person or not?’ It’s not that often in life you have to ask yourself such a stripped-down question.”

His role as David Fox in VACANCY posed a new kind of challenge for Luke Wilson, who is best known for his work in hit comedies such as “Old School” and “Legally Blonde”. “His performance is going to surprise a lot of people, I think, because they’re not accustomed to seeing him in these kinds of roles,” says Antal.  

Wilson says he was attracted to the role of an ordinary guy who finds himself caught in an extraordinary circumstance. “My character’s not like MacGyver or some Harrison Ford action star,” he says. “He’s just trying to keep his wife alive, trying to keep himself alive by sheer instinct. But as the night progresses, you feel our chances slipping away.  So it gets more and more terrifying.”

For writer Mark L. Smith, the ultimate payoff will be seeing VACANCY in a regular theater with an audience of strangers. “I want to experience it for the first time with them,” he says. “With thrillers, or anything scary, so much of the fun is the reactions you get from the people around you.”

Vacancy hits theaters on April 20th.