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Vacancy 2: The First Cut (2009)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/20/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/19/2009

At least once a week, I find myself writing about sequels. There is typically a look at the necessity of sequels and what constitutes a good one and where most of them go wrong. Yet, we rarely discuss prequels, which can be a different animal all together. While sequels can often stretch ideas or perhaps have no relation at all to the original film, prequels purport to tell us what happened before the first movie. This can lead to some interesting storylines and answer questions which may have been ignored in the original movie. Vacancy 2: The First Cut is the prequel to the 2007 film Vacancy, and shows the viewer the origins of the killer motor court.

Vacancy 2: The First Cut opens with a title card which tells us that in April, 2007, authorities shut down the Pinewood Motel and that over 200 videotaped murders were discovered. This film tells the story of the first tape, dated 2004. But, for some reason, the scene then shifts to the Meadow View Motel. Gordon (David Moscow) and Reece (Brian Klugman) work at the Meadow View and they've placed cameras in Cabin 6, and they videotape couples who visit the facility. They then have a trucker (David Shackleford) sell the tapes. One night, a man calling himself Smith (Scott G. Anderson) checks into Cabin 6 with a woman and Gordon and Reece shocked that instead of having sex with the naked woman, Smith kills her. Afraid of having their operation discovered by the police, Gordon and Reece capture the man and attempt to decide what to do. Smith convinces the two that there would be more money in snuff films than in amateur porn...and they go along with it.

We then meet Jessica (Agnes Bruckner) and Caleb (Trevor Wright), who are moving from Chicago to North Carolina. Caleb's friend, Tanner (Arjay Smith), is along for the ride to help them move (despite the fact that Jessica and Tanner don't get along). Tired from traveling, they stop at the Meadow View for some rest. As they get settled, Tanner sees that he can see the room next door on his TV. Realizing that Jessica and Caleb's room is filled with cameras, the group attempts to leave, but they find themselves confronted by two masked killers and Gordon toting a video camera. Now, the three young people must try to find their way out of the motel and through the countryside to safety.

In many ways, Vacancy 2: The First Cut is exactly what you would think a low-budget, direct-to-DVD would be. And yet, there are two distinct movies going on inside of it. On the one hand, the movie answers the one main question which didn't get covered in Vacancy; how and why did the motel proprietors get involved in murdering the guests and videotaping it. Writer Mark L. Smith, who also wrote the original, has taken this idea seriously...almost too seriously. We see that Gordon and Reece aren't necessarily evil people, but simply two perverts attempting to make a buck. The mysterious Smith (about whom we learn nothing -- I predict that Vacancy 3 will tell us his backstory) talks the duo into getting into the snuff business. But, this isn't a mere whim which is followed. They actually discuss the logistics of the idea and gets the trucker's opinion on distribution. The movie almost becomes a "How to Start a Small Business" video. As odd as all of this is, it's sort of interesting. (Once travelers arrive, we also see the group ironing out the problems with their operation.)

The other half of the film begins to echo the first film, as the killers taunt a couple plus one whom they are trying to kill. We see the victims attempt to hide in the motel, and then, in a departure from the first film, they actually leave the scene of the crime and venture into the woods. But, instead of adding a new element, this makes Vacancy 2: The First Cut feel like any other Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-off. The movie does get points for some plot twists in the early third act.

If you enjoyed Vacancy, then you'll want to check out Vacancy 2: The First Cut. This is by no means a good movie, but it is competently made and it will fill in some of the blanks from the first film. Well, except for one. How come the movie and DVD box tell us that the first movie took place at the Pinewood Motel, but the two motels featured here are called the Meadow View and the Pearblossom. Where's the Pinewood? (And why did the movie have to take place in my home state of North Carolina? That's not cool.)

Vacancy 2: The First Cut puts a do not disturb sign on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The film was shot on HD and this delivers an image which is sharp and clear, showing on grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably reds, but the image does get a bit dark at times. The picture is never soft and I didn't detect any distracting artifacting or video noise. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are notably good and come into play once the pursuit begins. The same goes for the surround sound, which is very effective when the group hears noises coming from next door. The bass effects help to accent the "jump" scenes and any scene involving a gun.

The Vacancy 2: The First Cut DVD contains a few extras. Things are kicked off by an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Eric Bross, Producer Hal Lieberman, Executive Producer Brian Paschal, and actors Agnes Bruckner and David Moscow. This is an engaging commentary, as it appears that most of the group bonded while shooting. They talk about the locations, the other actors, the shooting schedule, and the film's ideas. However, Bruckner either has little to add or is uncomfortable, as she rarely speaks. The DVD contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. All three are brief and it's easy to see whay they were cut, as they don't add anything to the story. "Caught on Tape: Behind the Scenes of Vacancy 2" (13 minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains comments from the filmmakers and the cast. They talk about the ideas for the film, the characters, and the production. "Behind the Facade: Constructing the Meadow View Inn" (7 minutes) contains interviews with the Production Designer, Construction Coordinator, and Art Director who describe how they turned an empty parking lot into the motel setting. We get to see how the cabins were constructed.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long