House of Wax (2005)


I found myself occasionally chuckling during the film, and the reason was because I could almost practically hear the one-minded logic that would surface when its target audience attempted to explain its endearment for this basically forgettable remake. The typical target audience will ultimately like this better than any of the other versions because: “Oh my god, Chad Michael Murray is like so totally hot”, or “Damn, Elisha Cuthbert is so totally hot and awesome”. Either way, are you at all surprised that I didn’t like this remake very much? I wanted to be surprised by this, but in the end I wasn’t, and I was given exactly what I expected: yet another WB star laden remake that was more concerned with touting stars of hit shows than actually casting real actors. Get with the program people! These are vehicles, not movies, these are promotional tools, not films, these are publicity programs, not a horror movie! These are fillers for resumes, not roles!

But the worst crime behind this drab remake? It’s not scary. Sure it’s violent, and gruesome in some respects, and slightly tense, but scary it ain’t. Not that I expect a scary movie from studios anymore; they’re the bastard child constantly failing me, and if I could, I’d lock them in the basement and throw away the key. The genre’s had its nuts clipped to often PG-13 rated fare, and when there are R rated films in theaters, they’re basically toned down for what the rating requires. A bunch of beautiful teens heading to a football game (don’t they always?) decide to camp out and get stuck in a deserted town with two psychotic brothers on their tails. The writers make it a point to hide the fact they’re brothers up until the climax as if its some big plot twist, in spite of the fact they’re established as brothers in the awfully redundant opening scene.

While Serra does try to exude some sense of mystery, it ends up becoming more of a faux-Burton nuance than actually genuine as a horror film. You can call it a remake of “House of Wax”, but I prefer to call it a rip-off of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Bunch of teens heading to an event find themselves stuck in a basically isolated deserted area with a psychotic family, one of whom is a deranged deformed masked killer with his own favorite weapon who uses human bodies as decoration. No, the similarities are just all in my head, right? Sure. As you’d expect, the character set-up is basic and by-the-numbers with your usual self-explanatory set-ups of the characters who make a note to explain to the audience who they are by explaining to each other.

“Gosh, Nick you’re a rabblerousing brooding juvenile delinquent with an edge who used to be a drug dealer who could have been a football player, and your favorite color is blue, and you like long walks on the beach, why do you have to be so edgy and James Dean-like all the time?” And then Chad Michael Murray broods. And then Chad actually mutters the line, “You’re the good twin, and I’m the evil twin.” And he says it with a straight-face! This is the guy who was almost ashamed to be starring in the crappy “Lone Ranger” prequel on television, he used to wince during interviews gazing at the cheesy clips of him as a cowboy, and he is able to mutter that line? To which I slammed my head on to my desk. Okay, we get it. The twin theme is a constant here. Okay, we get it. Twins versing twins. Okay, we get it, the two brothers are deranged. The performances here are not bad (I’ve seen much worse), but awfully stiff, and half the time I couldn’t tell who were the actors and who were the wax figures.

Murray’s performance is based around emoting and brooding which is helped by his hood which he drapes over his head for every dramatic moment to indicate “He’s so edgy!”, while Cuthbert does nothing really but runs and screams, Hilton tries her best to look sexy which is hard for someone who is–you know–not, and then there are your disposables: your hapless boyfriend, the retard nerd, and the token black guy whose given a particularly brutal death. And, yes, the director looks for any excuse to show our cast almost naked. This was like a bad B movie on Skinemax: “Oh my god, Nick, I ruined my tight sweater revealing my bulging breasts, whatever shall I do?”, to which Chad replies: “Okay Carly” (Takes off tank top revealing bulging biceps) “Here is my shirt… and gaze at my man nipples”, Carly winces, “Aren’t we brother and sister?” Nick covers his chest, “Oh, right—never mind.” The director even shows Paris Hilton nearly naked for some reason; I had to turn away at that point, being obviously squeamish at disgusting imagery.

For all it lacks, Jaume Serra does manage to be able to muster up much beautiful often morbid imagery that is put to use within the film’s general settings. Serra and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon who take the often glowing and pretty morbid wax figurines that look like figurines on a road side stand, and makes good use of their twisted expressions and forced poses to invent some sense of deluded happiness within the psycho’s range of life. The film, once within the town’s limits, does end up becoming entertaining, and the house of wax is one sick display of imagery that pays homage to Lovecraft in some elements. Also, one of the many highlights in “Wax” is watching Paris Hilton die. Hey, call me sick, but it was fun to see Max Shreck look-alike Paris Hilton die on-screen, and it’s a gruesome death indeed. I have a special weakness for slasher films regardless of how bad they are, and as a slasher, “Wax” works in some areas. I just found it funny that for a movie built around this ghoul, which was filmed as a vehicle for this vampire, that she’s only in it for just a little while. God, they can’t even market her right.

It’s surprising they didn’t really flaunt Cuthbert much since she basically has a great body and looks to boot which are noticeably toned down in favor of Paris who plays the ditzy best friend as only she knows how: with a clueless expression. And then Chad Michael Murray broods. With Serra’s film and the often hackneyed writing, “House of Wax” is not so much a bad movie, but it’s in the end just lifeless and drab. The writers exchange characterization for gratuitous skin, suspense for gore, storytelling for constant padding, and then Chad Michael Murray broods. Also, the plot devices end up every which way that are thrown around sometimes to be used blatantly and sometimes to just disappear for no reason. And many times the plot devices are so deliberate they’re just laughable (The killers leave clues to their origins lying around the house?). And the plot holes are a constant. How did they turn the house in to wax? Was it done with their parents?

Where did they get the wax? Did they ship it? If so, how if it’s constantly explained that the town is hard to find? And as with many productions from Dark Castle, this attempts to end on a bit of a question mark/twist that ends up being immensely expected and brutally brainless. And then Chad Michael Murray broods. “House of Wax” is yet another remake in the line of creatively impotent films that studios have a hard-on for lately, and is nowhere near being a good film. While “House of Wax” is never as awful as I expected, it ends up just being mediocre as a stupid, brainless, and pointless horror installment with all the usual characters, and pretty bad acting all around. While Serra does manage to show some sick and beautiful imagery, and it can tend to be entertaining in some respects, it’s a shame a logical compelling story couldn’t have been told in the whole two hours of watching pretty WB stars run for their lives. Give me the original, any day.