Vacancy takes its place in a very long line of motel/accommodation-related horror, obviously harkening to Psycho, but also recently through the likes of Airbnb terrors like 13 Cameras and The Rental with the connective tissue going back to golden era horrors like Mountaintop Motel Massacre and Tourist Trap.

And it doesn’t exactly ring that bell to summon anything new to the table, and that’s not even that much of a criticism to levy. After all, atmosphere and some strong performances are often enough to carry the day, especially with a plot that’s basically anorexic.

The elevator pitch for this one is so simple, you can make your case between floors: a couple is terrorized in a cheap motel. Never has the “keep it simple, stupid,” been better realized.

The couple here (Angelinos played by the capable Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson) have car troubles and find themselves stranded in the backwoods, a la Wrong Turn (obviously) and about, without exaggerating, hundreds of others.

Stranded out in the mountains of California, they meet a mechanic to pit a self-sufficient rural against a callous-free urban, the standard means of otherizing people in the sticks and playing upon city dwellers fears of them. Sure enough, their ride won’t start and the couple is compelled to stay at a motel so dumpy, they steal your towels (thanks, Rodney Dangerfield).

Soon, there’s a lot of banging – unfortunately not the intimate kind – as the twosome is terrorized by locals engaged in surveillance and black market film production.

Vacancy features a creepy innkeeper, of course, accomplices and even ventures into tight spaces a la The Descent, with subterranean room access to make this roadside fleabag that much more terrifying.

*** (out of 5)

Cemetery of Terror

Can you be all things to all people? Apparently so, if the curious Mexican horror, Cemetery of Terror is any indication, a grab bag of every possible genre often haphazardly tossed together.

What begins as a standard Night of the Creeps/Hell Night style film built around the usual bunch of collegiate types with designs on spending a night in a dilapidated mansion, turns into something else entirely – shifting gears to focus on a different set of principals altogether, which is a bit jarring, not to mention an entirely different genre (zombie).

As infomercial pitchmen say, “but wait, there’s more!” Against this pretty standard horror boilerplate, there’s…a psychotic killer, who’s also a Satanist. Strangely, he’s dead but is brought back to life through some incantations a la Lamberto Bava’s Demons (or any other type of film, really, with a Nekronomikon-like tome). He claws at victims like a bear, and has lupine facial features. Keen-eyed viewers will note nods to Silent Night Deadly Night, George A Romero and the work of Lucio Fulci.

While the first set of victims is being dispatched, very unceremoniously (this is pretty low budget fare), younger kids are trespassing at the local cemetery with a pumpkin in tow, and very cavalierly encountering skulls, etc. However, given this is the culture behind Día de Muertos perhaps not surprising.

Soon, the revivified loon is out for blood and tearing after a younger demo.

This is all glorious stuff, complete with vinyl windbreaker red handkerchief drip, generic references to “rock concerts” and living a jet set lifestyle, tepid cutaways, and uproarious dialogue. Bonus: Italian horror heads will get a kick out of investigation psychiatrist Dr Cardan, played by genre legend (and legend in his own right, of course), Hugo Stiglitz.

***1/2 (out of 5)