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House of Wax
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2005

Format: Movie
By:   Jaume Serra (director) and Chad and Carey Hayes (screenwriters)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   May 6, 2005
Review Date:   May 09, 2005
Audience Rating:   Rated R
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

You're not going in there, are you? – Carly

When are teenagers going to learn to stop going on road trips through the backwoods? You do that and the next thing you know, you're running into hicks, weirdos and psychos that do the "Ten Little Indians" number on you.

As most of you know, House of Wax is the third remake of a William Castle film by the Dark Castle film studio, after House on Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts. In the original, Vincent Price is a talented wax sculptor who is horribly burned when his partner sets fire to the museum for the insurance money. It also had Charles Bronson as his Igor. Vincent was making a new Wax Museum by encasing people in the wax. It's a fun movie (I have a soft spot for all of Price's films), with some great Grand Guignol style thrills. The revelation of what Vincent looks like at the end is a classic scene. The film also had the gimmick of being in 3D.

This new one keeps only the very basic part of the premise, that a crazy artist guy is waxing people. A group of teens are caravaning their way to the biggest college football game of the year. Just like the kids in the Texas Chainsaw remake and House of 1,000 Corpses, with similar fates. It also has its own gimmick: the stunt casting of Paris Hilton.

We have twins Carly (Elisha "I'm Kim Bauer, Kidnap Me" Cuthbert), and Nick (Chad "One Tree Hill" Murray) Jones. They have your typical sibling rivalry, where Nick acts like a jerk and declares, "I'm the evil twin." So when you hear Carly harping on "What happened to you," you just know he's got a heart of gold under his crusty exterior.

Traveling with them is Carly's boyfriend Wade (Jade "Young MacGyver" Padalecki), friends Paige (Paris "Simple" Hilton), her boyfriend Blake (Robert "Coach Carter" Ri'chard) and Nick's buddy Dalton (Jon "They" Abrahams). They're making one last trip before Carly heads off to New York for an internship, which is putting a strain on her relationship with Wade.

When Blake's shortcut leads to a detour that tosses the group into the deep woods, they park for the night and set up camp. Things go well until they have a creepy encounter with a pickup truck. The driver just keeps his lights on, watching the group until Nick tosses a bottle at the truck and breaks a headlamp, driving the guy off. You know this is only going to lead to trouble.

In the morning, when they try to leave, Wade's car has a fan belt break, stranding half the group. He and Carly, with the help of a local redneck, head to a small town nearby to get a new belt. In this little lost town they find the House of Wax. It's closed, but they go in anyway and marvel at the place — the entire place is made of wax, the walls, floors, furniture, the whole nine.

They wander around, meet the owner of the garage, and things take off from there . . . sort of. All this took about 30 of the flick's 110-minute run time, and there's about another fifteen minutes before things really start happening. This, my friends, is the movie's biggest flaw. It's all long, drawn-out setup for the scares. There are just huge, huge, huge tracts of time that are tedious filler and overdone overture.

Now, once the plot kicks in and the scares start scaring, the movie is good. There are some wonderful creepy bits done with all the wax "artwork," great tense scenes and some very sadistic and vicious kills. This film tortures some of the characters with wicked abandon, like the guy who has part of his face peeled off.

Our bad guys are also very interesting, another pair of twins named Bo and Vincent (Brian "SWAT" Van Holt), the children of the woman who originally built the House of Wax. Vincent (a nod to Mr. Price) has his mother's artistic talent, and Bo is a cruel SOB. The movie plays a bit with good and bad twins idea and the secret about Bo/Vincent. The end of the film is a great set piece that was just about worth the price of admission.

However, you have to sit through way too much setup to get to the good stuff. Between each of the great bits is another batch of slow builds. Some of them build tension, but others just drag.

Most of the cast, particularly Dalton, Paris and Blake, are thumbnails just there to be killed and don't really bring a lot to the party. Paris does die horribly, so at least there's that.

This film really could have been done in 90 minutes, perhaps even 60, with judicious editing. It's just way too padded. It's not nearly as much fun as the original, and that one had Vincent Price going for it, too. And a young Charles Bronson.

I have enjoyed most of the Dark Castle films so far, and while this is not the weakest outing yet from them (that would be Gothika), it is not the strongest either. If you're a horror fan who's just jonesing for a fright fix, or you want to watch Paris Hilton get murdered, then go ahead and see House of Wax in the theatre. Otherwise, wait for video where you can fast forward to the good, gooey, waxy stuff.

Don't miss Gary Mitchel's Disneyesque spectacular Mouse of Wax, only on Playhouse of Wax Disney!

 
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