Playing a game with The Helpers, ain’t no fun at all
Todd (Dustin Harnish) and his friends are headed to Las Vegas for a fun and wild weekend of pure D decadence. But a roadblock takes them off the main highway and onto a deserted road where their car gets not one, but two flat tires. They walk ahead to a conveniently located repair shop/motel, where the extremely friendly staff agrees to fix their car and let them stay in the motel for free — Danger, Will Robinson! After partying all night with the staff, Todd and his friends wake up in the morning with no recollection of what happened the night before, and worse yet, find that they are pawns in a sick game being played by the very people who they thought would help them.
Horror Movie Rule #117: If your car breaks down on an isolated desert road and a group of overly friendly individuals offers to help you free of charge, just say NO!
No Vacancy was made back in 2012 under its original title “The Helpers.” It’s a story about a group of attractive twenty-somethings who break down on a desolate highway, and receive help from a group of equally attractive twenty-somethings, who just so happen to work at a repair shop/motel just up the road. Here, the smiley crew promises the Vegas gang a complimentary stay in the motel until their car is fixed. While they wait, the group can indulge in free drinks and anything on the menu — it’s hard to think ill of people offering up all you can eat chicken wings. Everything’s good, maybe too good, but when you’re plastered out of your mind, and stuffed to the gills on hot wings, it’s hard to see clearly.
Although No Vacancy treads no new ground, it’s a little bit more than the typical boobalicious torture porn spectacles we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Once the fun is over however, the sadism takes center stage, and the friendly staff suddenly turns into a mob of careless killers, who play a brutal game with the lives of their guests. Unlike most horror flicks, a majority of the scares take place during the daylight hours. I think this little tack makes things even creepier than if the bulk of the movie had happened in the dark recesses that most horror movies usually inhabit. Daylight is supposed to be where safety lies, what the victims see after the nightmare is over, but not in the world of the creepy weird helpers in the desert.
I liked this movie a lot, much more than I had expected — but I really wasn’t expecting much. I mean the generic title and cheesy cover art led me to believe that I would have to pop a few caffeine pills just to make it to the end. The real test was husband, who thought this would be one of my review choices where he would be napping more than watching, and even he was surprised at the effectiveness of No Vacancy.
Sure, the characters make the usual bone headed horror movie decisions that we could see are a bad idea from a mile away; still there are enough choice moments that surprised even a hardened horror movie cynic like me. I won’t give away any spoilers just in case you decide to check it out for yourself; let’s just say it has to do with orphanages, and mistreated kids turning into a dysfunctional band of roaming lunatics.
If you happened to have read some reviews about No Vacancy, most critics rip this film to shreds. But as my Aunt Teddy used to say, “Don’t pay dem no never mind,” this is a good film, much better than those naysayers give it credit for. The gore isn’t too gorey and there really isn’t the boobsploitation that is usually present in movies where the cast is made up mostly of supermodel-types. Even with all that, the acting is fairly good, the back story surrounding The Helpers is interesting, the directing is tight, with very little in wasted shots; propelling No Vacancy past it’s extremely mundane title.
The standard def 2.35:1 widescreen presentation of No Vacancy allows the viewer to get a crystal clear view of the motel torment inflicted on the guests. The dialogue is easy to hear thanks to the Dolby 5.1 audio. Extras on this Lionsgate release include, a trailer gallery and a digital copy of the film that you can play on any of your mobile devices.
Though a bit on the predictable side, No Vacancy is a respectable attempt at scaring the pants of the populace.