We already have two reviews for Vacancy on the site, both of which echo much of my own sentiments towards the film, which for the record, is an effective, well constructed thriller with more scares in its modest 85-minute running time than something like Hostel (or its sequel) could ever hope for, yet manages this with barely a spattering of blood. I think Kevin O’Reilly’s theatrical review is closest to my own take on the film, citing Hitchcock as an obvious influence (one that is most apparent during the opening titles and car journey), though Eamonn’s DVD review makes a lot of good points with regards to the by-numbers script structure. It’s all in the execution though, and that along with the casting of the central characters is something we all seem to be in agreement over, and this is where Vacancy really delivers and makes for a tense experience particularly when viewed with the lights dimmed and the sound cranked up…
Vacancy is a film set predominantly at night, with light sources either natural (moonlight) or more frequently artificial (flashlights, headlights and various lighting from the motel both interior and exterior) which make it a tricky film to put on disc with deep black levels and fine shadow detail a must. Fortunately this release from Sony delivers, and the 1080P 2.40:1 widescreen transfer (encoded in AVC) is nothing short of stunning throughout. I really wasn’t expecting much, but the clever positioning of cameras and excellent use of minimal light sources in the film are handled beautifully by this transfer, with the image truly popping out on numerous occasions thanks to the incredible depth of field which is achieved by bottomless black levels which contrast so starkly with the finely detailed areas of shadow and light within the frame. Colours too are superbly rendered, while the break from night into day as the film nears its conclusion only heightens the level of excellence achieved by this encode. It really is pixel perfect to my eyes, while the compression is likewise flawless.
In terms of audio, we have an uncompressed English PCM 5.1 (4.6Mbps, 48khz) mix and several Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) options including English (see the side information columns for full audio and subtitle details). I had to settle for the English DD5.1 mix, though maybe “settle” is the wrong word to be using as this is a very aggressive, active track with clear separation across all channels making for a truly claustrophobic experience at times given the film’s sound design. You really do feel as though you’re in the room with Luke and Kate as they’re being harassed, with those thumps on the walls likely to result in an equal response from your neighbour if you’re watching this late at night.
Sadly there isn’t much in the way of extras and certainly no exclusives over the DVD release, though what we do get is presented in 1080P (MPEG2) which is always welcome. First up is an Alternate Opening (1:16mins) which shows the aftermath of the events in the film before joining David and Amy on the open road. I’m glad they dropped this, as it would have spoiled what was to come from the film, that and the opening titles they replaced it with are much more interesting. Next up is a making-of featurette, Checking In: The Cast and Crew of Vacancy (21:38mins) which delves a little deeper than most with some interesting snippets on the set and photography, but is otherwise far too clip-heavy and not terribly interesting. Strangely compelling are the Extended Snuff Films (8:49mins) which starts off quite poor but then get a little better in their execution. They work far better in the context of the film where they are seen in brief cuts but it’s still quite interesting to see them in full here. Then lastly we have a deleted scene, Raccoon Encounter (1:26mins) which is pretty much as the name suggests. Its excision, like the opening scene was wise, though in this instance I think it probably would have added some unnecessary light humour into a film that thrives on suspense.
Lastly there is a trailer for Spider-Man 3, but typically no sign of a trailer for the film on the disc. All extras are subtitled in English and Dutch.