House of Wax (2005)

Synopsis: Thrills and chills ooze all over you in House of Wax, from Dark Castle Entertainment and legendary horror producers Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis (Gothika, House on Haunted Hill).

When their car breaks down on a road trip, six college friends are sidetracked into an eerie backwoods town. Curiosity gets the better of them when they are intrigued by its macabre House of Wax. They soon find out that the town is not what it seems and they must find their way out before they fall victim to its ghoulishly inventive killers.

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House of Wax (2005) 5.75

eyelights: Elisha Cuthbert.
eyesores: its bland cast. its trite plot. its many conventions. its excessive violence. its lack of logic.

“You’re saying that that’s a real person… underneath?”

I was never going to watch 2005’s ‘House of Wax’. Frankly, though I’m a fan of both of its predecessors, any movie that hires Paris Hilton as one of its lead “actresses” deserves no respect.

So I just couldn’t be bothered with it, despite the fact that, after it was released on home video, it was everywhere I turned.

It was no more tempting.

But one has to suffer for one’s “art” and I have a completist bone in my body so, when I decided to watch the 1933 and 1953 versions, it seemed crucial to watch the so-called 2005 remake as well.

I say “so-called” because, apparently, this movie is a “House of Wax” in name only: the picture was to be called ‘Wax House, Baby’ until Warner Bros. discovered they had the rights to this title.

At least, according to Wikipedia…

Other sources suggest that this is actually a remake of the 1979 horror film, ‘Tourist Trap’, which also revolves around a group of friends who get stuck in some backwoods museum of wax.

Interestingly, the plots synopses are eerily similar.

The key difference here is that this ‘House of Wax’ shows its hand early on: it tells us that a set of twins are behind the creepy waxworks, taking us back to 1974 to visit their wax sculpting family.

We don’t know their current identities, but we know that one of them is mild-mannered while the other one is erratic – to such an extent that his parents actually duct tape him into his highchair.

Um, yeah…

There is very little mystery in ‘House of Wax’. It makes a feeble attempt, in Carly’s brother, Nick, telling her she’s the good twin and he’s the evil one, but it’s soon clear they aren’t the wax artists.

There are also red herrings, in the form of a hick who dumps roadkill in a pit and takes Carly and Nick to the small town, and in the moody mechanic who lives there. But they’re easily discounted.

The rest of the time, we just patiently wait for the twins to show up.

And for the friends to die.

The sad thing about this movie is that it’s basically your generic slasher-type horror film masquerading as a modern update to a genre classic. Except that it’s neither an update nor a classic.

There is a glimmer of light in the opening sequence, which is so ridiculous and over-the-top that one hopes for campy goodness. Unfortunately, this goes for a “torture porn” tone instead.

Do you want to see gory cadavers? Done! Wouldn’t it be great to see Carly get her lips glued together and then tearing them apart? Sure! How about snipping her fingertip off? Totally!

And on and on and on.

Granted, it doesn’t delve as deeply into the depravity of films like ‘Saw’, but it caters to the same crowd, using visceral shocks and cheap scares in lieu of atmosphere and psychology.

In other words, this is notThe Shining‘.

This is basically a youth-oriented exploitation film in the same vein as ‘Friday the 13th‘, but with a dialed up amount of gore and cruelty. Case-in-point, the cast is all youthful and attractive.

And, naturally, there are no great thespians amongst them. Of course, this is to Elisha Cuthbert’s advantage: she stands so far above the rest of them as Carly that she positively shines.

Forget the fact that she later delivers her lines as though her lips haven’t been torn apart – that’s a script and directorial oversight, in my estimation. Otherwise, she’s really quite terrific here.

(Ahem… unlike a certain Hilton girl who, ironically, is utterly waxy – don’t get me started!).

Cuthbert is the only thing that makes this paint-by-numbers horror worth watching: The script is impoverished and illogical, the scares are artificial, and the gory bits are stupid and excessive.

Speaking of which, I couldn’t help but wonder if the film was intended to be shown in 3D, because a lot of the attacks and kills were very gimmicky, in the foreground, as though it were 3D.

Having said this,  I didn’t find any evidence of this.

Hmmm…

In any event, ‘House of Wax’ isn’t worth the time. While the museum itself is creepy and its wax sculptures are memorable, most of the picture spends its time outside this tourist attraction.

And though the whole town is supposedly made of wax (including, unrealistically, the walls, floors, ceilings and roofs!), it’s not self-evident at first glance – so audiences don’t get to enjoy this.

By the final moments, in which the villains are vanquished and wax is melted in abundance in a large fire, it’s too late to draw any satisfaction out what was two mindless hours of pseudo-horror.

This ‘House of Wax’ was built on sand.

Story: 5.0
Acting: 6.5
Production: 7.5

Chills: 3.0
Gore: 6.5
Violence: 6.5

Date of viewing: March 27, 2017

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