Halloween Endurance Test: House of Wax (2005)

Why does a film that calls itself House of Wax, which would, one assumes, be a remake of the 1956, Vincent Price version, then borrow liberally from 2,000 Maniacs’ plot? I mean, some of the changes made here are for the better. Such as when they shoe-horned in a giant charnel pit of shit and animal corpses for no reason other than having a monstrous pool of fetid, fecal matter. In my book blog this is a major cinematic event! One that easily makes this movie worth at least one view.

Upon further review, this film seems to cannibalize every horror film the script writing team could think of. The crazy, bloodied hitchhiker suspiciously absent from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake? He’s here, working the roadkill shift and still creeping everybody out.

Okay, the one character, Wade (Jared Padalecki), openly admits to being interested in houses of wax. Now while I would love to go to one, I’m certainly not looking them up on the internet for them. So I”m going to make a wild guess and assume that people who’re still enthusiastic about wax museums in this day and age aren’t college football fans. I just can’t imagine the two crowds having too much in common.

Well, this alleged fan finds what must be the greatest house of wax in the history of wax houses. As the figures here aren’t just wax, but everything. From the floor, to the walls, to the ceiling. Wade and girlfriend Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) also find a playable piano, but there’s no mention about whether it too is wax. A nice homage to Mr. Price is that the crazy wax artist character’s name is “Vincent.”

Can someone someday please make a horror movie where there’s no scene involving a car inconveniently stalling? Just a film where everything works right, as most things normally do. I don’t even like my phone, and I’ve yet to lose it to an unreachable spot under my car seat.

Also, the scene where Wade is being made into a wax figure takes way too many cues from Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Beginning’s epic mask making scene. It’s sad that in both cases neither the new Leatherface or crazy wax artist Vincent have any sort of personality in these revamps.

Genre cliches aside, you really can’t fault the film for being this ambitious. The scene where the recently “waxed” Wade is found by his friend, Dalton (Jon Abrahams), is extremely effective. Riffing off of the original House of Wax’s “ah-ha!” scene where the characters find corpses inside the wax figures, here Dalton finds his friend mummified, but still breathing. Every time a sliver of wax is torn off Wade’s face, a piece of skin goes off with it. Giving Dalton a choice: either save his friend, and, in the process, reduce him to a grotesque mess, or leave him to suffocate.

A hard decision for any friend, luckily the machete-welding Vincent (Brian Van Holt) offers his help, by cleaving Wade’s jaw in half.

The wax town also allows the filmmakers the chance to create more elaborate scenes. The original House of Wax’s stabbed in a bathrobe piece? Pales in comparison to the remake’s movie theater full of wax mannequins. While Vincent’s murderous brother Bo searches the theater for Carly and her brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), the audience is also scouring the theater, looking for a waxed-up extra to blink!

Such versatility does not forgive the film’s biggest flaw; the overall length. At just under two hours, the film is a good half-hour too long. When the film should be wrapping up, it’s stuck slaying off incidental characters.

Paige (Paris Hilton) and Blake (Robert Ri’chard) add absolutely nothing to the story. Not even sleaze value, as both just talk about having sex. Blake does provide Nick and Carly with a getaway vehicle, though, cutting Paige and Blake out of the picture would make Wade’s four seater more than adequate. Much like the film’s title, which was bought largely for name recognition, Hilton is also used solely for her star power.

Modern circular financing, where a star’s signing onto a “name” project then gives the filmmakers enough clout to pull in enough funding to actually buy the name of the property that started the cycle.

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