Review: House of Wax (2005)

Posted by Peter Hall - October 31st 2006 @ 8:00 am

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, 2005
Written by Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes, Charles Belden (story)

Pull the trigger, I accept the bullets openly. 

House of Wax taint half bad.  On a fair day, it may even be considered half good.  The combo weights of being an unnecessary remake at the height of remake hysteria and casting Paris Hilton sunk the movie in the pool of popular opinion before it even opened, but unless you are as superficial as the aforementioned bloated media presence, those weights aren’t that heavy.

Wade through the typical cast of characters: emotionally "complex" heroine, her uptight peroxide blonde friend, their frat boy boyfriends, a wanna be gangster and the tough guy with a heart of gold.  Wait through some standard elements: introduction of villain, car breakdown, wandering around a ghost town.  Watch all the people you expected to die, die: tendon slices, spears through heads, live skin peeled off because your body was encased in wax – ya know, the standard stuff.

Remake it may be, predictable it may be, but you can’t deny how under-featured wax figures are in horror.  This injects a sense of originality when no actual originality may be present.  Trickery, but entertaining nonetheless to watch the elaborate set pieces and wax figures come to life, even without any cinematic animation.  A more experienced director could have paddled a far more penetrating sense of creepiness into the confident sets and set pieces, but even the basics are enjoyable enough.

Performances vary across the board.  The cast is predominately over the top stereotypical.  Hilton is impossible to swallow and Chad Michael Murray is far too reminiscent of pretty boys like Justin Timberlake to ever pass off as a badass.  But great turns from Elisha Cuthbert and Brian Van Holt as the underplayed hottie and psychotic serial wax-ist respectively are enough to balance the scales.  I was a fan of Cuthbert before (what seeing person isn’t?), but her lung power warrants special attention if she attaches to any future genre projects.

If you can tolerate the film to its end, you’ll be treated to a host of admirable imagery as the museum melts away in as realistic a way possible considering the hugely unrealistic circumstances.  There is even a wink of final death scene irony that isn’t actually ironic, but cute enough to put a smile on your face.

House of Wax is another Dark Castle film and about as good as the majority of them, which isn’t saying much.  If you have a soft spot for fare like House on Haunted Hill or Thirteen Ghosts (again, I place myself into the crosshairs and raise my hand), House of Wax deserves an eventual watch.  Don’t go out of your way to see it, mind you, but should you find yourself on the verge of watching it, suicide isn’t as obvious a choice as one may lead you to believe.

comments are closed
  1. andy sell
    November 1st, 2006 | 3:17 pm | #1

    totally agree.

    melting house is surreal and awesome.

    Paris Hilton’s death may just be one of the most satisfying scenes in recent horror/comedy.

  2. November 2nd, 2006 | 10:09 am | #2

    Amen to that, brother!

  3. andy sell
    November 2nd, 2006 | 3:17 pm | #3

    I also appreciate the House on Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts remakes.
    Not nearly as awesome as the William Castle originals… but entertaining nonetheless.

    when are they going to remake The Tingler or Mr. Sardonicus?

  4. November 3rd, 2006 | 11:29 am | #4

    Thir13een Ghosts was the first R-rated movie I went to when I turned 17, so I probably enjoyed it a bit more than I had any right to. I like the concept, too, and Tony Shalhoub is The Man, or at least one of The Men.

    Meanwhile, at the risk of losing my cinema cyber-cred, House on Haunted Hill scared the crap outta me.

  5. andy sell
    November 3rd, 2006 | 2:39 pm | #5

    yo, Peter, have you heard about all this hubbub regarding Bill O’Reilly and Fox News vs. the Torture sub-genre?

    ridiculous, i tell ya.

  6. November 3rd, 2006 | 5:05 pm | #6

    Ever seen Mean Creek? The question of if you could snap your fingers and someone would drop dead, who would it be/would you do it?

    O’Reilly in a heartbeat. I hate that scumbag.

    But nope, haven’t heard anything about it. I’ll look into it, if I can brave Fox News’ long enough.

  7. andy sell
    November 3rd, 2006 | 5:33 pm | #7

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