A thriller that relies too much on creating tension with sudden movements and scary masks, 'Vacancy' would have benefited from a more substantial plotline.

An estranged couple are pretending to be the picture of happiness for her parents' anniversary party but the road trip that follows the celebrations throws up more than a few surprises, forcing them to reunite for the sake of survival. Are you yawning already?

David (Wilson) veers off the Interstate in favour of a shortcut as Amy (Beckinsale) sleeps. She's not best pleased when she wakes up in the middle of nowhere in the black of the night, and even less so when, wait for it, the car breaks down. Their options are limited. It's late, pitch-dark and there's no-one around. They can either sleep in the car on the side of the road or trek back to the nearest filling station and motel, which they passed about a mile beforehand.

As luck would have it, they pick the wrong option. I venture to say that the film would probably have been more interesting if they had just stayed in the car and bickered about their personal lives for the remaining 70 minutes. But instead they go for the sleazy, grotty motel option, where the owner (Whaley) looks shadier than nightfall. And from here on it's all downhill.

Once inside the 'honeymoon' suite, strange things begin to happen - unexplained noises, things appearing where they shouldn't be and then a videotape appears that gives them both far too much information about the motel they are staying in and its proprietor, who deals in snuff movies. And so the moral of the story is laid on thick. The pair must cast their squabbling and petty differences aside and reunite for the sake of their survival, but the escape is not going to be easy. Cue ridiculous chases, the most perfect timing to beat even the wiliest of adversaries and general nonsense from here on in.

And just when you think it can't get any worse, it does exactly that. Every unbelievable over-the-top twist shows up here at some stage, topped off by an ending that is downright shameful.

Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson are both worth more than this painful outing. Sure, it's probably not for the very faint-hearted at times but it delves so far into the ridiculous that you can't ever take the scary moments all that seriously.

If it's the only movie showing at your local cinema then run for your life... if you'll pardon the all-too-obvious pun, much in keeping with the spirit of this mediocre effort.

Linda McGee