HomeHorrorIf 'Vacancy' Scared You, Then Don't Watch This Netflix Documentary

If ‘Vacancy’ Scared You, Then Don’t Watch This Netflix Documentary


The Netflix original documentary Voyeur is an intense affair that chronicles troublesome subject matter and features a rather disreputable key player. In spite of that, the film tells an undeniably compelling story by which I was thoroughly fascinated.

Voyeur chronicles the purportedly true story of a motel owner that outfitted his rooms with peepholes that allowed him to spy on his guests during their most private moments. The setup feels a lot like the storyline of the horror film Vacancy. But instead of making snuff films, the motel’s proprietor was satisfying his own curiosities without any regard for the individuals whose privacy he was violating. Years after selling the motel (and with the statute of limitations on his crimes having since passed), voyeuristic motel owner Gerald Foos decided to unburden himself to investigative journalist Gay Talese. Talese wrote a book about the experiences Foos’ recounted. And a documentary film crew was on hand during that process to capture the results. 

One of the strangest aspects of this story is the subject’s desire to share his misdeeds to the point of being almost boastful about them. He seemingly sees recounting his days as a Peeping Tom as a way to make his mark on the world. And while he has certainly made a name for himself, it’s not one that most would be proud of. 

Also Read: This HBO Max Documentary Is Heartbreaking and Infuriating

But this isn’t your typical motelier. No, Foos is anything but typical. He seems to think the law doesn’t apply to him and he finds ways to rationalize the awful things he has done. He calls himself a ‘researcher’ and takes care to tell the viewer that he’s not a pervert or Peeping Tom. In listening to him, you get the impression his sense of entitlement has led him to believe his curiosity supersedes the law and the privacy rights of others. 

Foos’ hypocrisy is prevalent throughout. He tells stories about spying on his guests in their most private moments and then has the audacity to say that he developed a distaste for people from the experience and that he didn’t like what they were doing when he was spying on them. The incredible thing is that he doesn’t seem to understand that he was taking something that doesn’t belong to him, invading the safe space of others, and then he proceeds to complain about the result. That is such a cynical perspective and it’s void of even a modicum of empathy. What he doesn’t realize is that it doesn’t matter how you felt about it when it wasn’t yours to observe. But that he never makes that realization and that makes Foos difficult to stomach as the subject of this doc.

Foos has this sociopathic sense of self-importance that sees him writing about himself in the third person and calling himself ‘The Voyeur’ in the notes he would keep about his ‘observations’.  He comes across as a slimy guy with no self-awareness and a problematic level of entitlement. That makes the doc a lot to take in. But I would advise you to stick with it till the end.  

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I mean it when I say you should stick with it. While it builds momentum at the onset, Voyeur does meander near the middle. It builds momentum at the onset. Rest assured, however, that the film finds its footing again in the home stretch and delivers a meaningful conclusion.

Based on where it starts, I would never have guessed the doc would end where it does. The final 15 minutes gave me cause to question where the truth lies in all of this and how much of what we see throughout the doc is real, versus embellished or flat-out fabricated. But the story is compelling and my gut instinct tells me that the bulk of what we hear is true.

All things considered, Voyeur is a compelling viewing experience that has the potential to be frustrating and triggering but also tells a fascinating story. If you’re curious to give the flick a look, it’s available exclusively through Netflix

Tags: Voyeur

Categorized: Editorials

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