House of Wax


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

I wanted to write the ad copy for this film. "Everyone Gets Wacked, in the House of Wax."

Even late-night television comics were making fun of Paris Hilton's film debut. But I thought she did a perfectly good job. When she was trying to get away & find a weapon & trying to hide in a car, to me she was no longer Paris Hilton; I totally believed she was a young woman trying to escape the ultimate victimization by a serial killer.

Given that Paris was the biggest name in the film, & not really noted for her acting, it is surprising how good everybody was. I would expect some of these young men & women to have very viable careers & never look back embarrassed for having been in this film. Still, it has to be admitted no one's acting is the same high level as the design of the film's wondrous sets.

Inspired by the 1953 3-D classic House of Wax starring Vincent Price as the corpse-waxing psycho, this new House of Wax is by no means a remake, but is chock full of its own ideas. Though full of familiar bits common to many "carload (or cabin-load) of teenagers picked off one by one" type movies, director Jaume Collet-Serra takes everything in his own directions, bringing his European (Spanish) perspective to bare. Under his directorship, House of Wax minimalizes the use of CGI in order to create a total sense of realism rather than of animation with people acting in front of bluescreens.

The main set is a largely abandoned & worn-out Art Deco village of considerable beauty, with only a touch of artifice sufficient to unsettle reality but not so much as to seem fake.

The inhabitants of the town have all been transformed into wax dummies. Twenty-odd years ago an artist who worked in wax had a dream of creating not just a wax museum, but Trudy's Town of Wax. In what was revealed of the background story, it appears that Trudy's dream was influenced by a tumor in her brain. She was also the mother of siamese twins who her husband, a doctor with an unsavory past, separated poorly, sacrificing half the face of one of the twins, both of whom grew up psychotic, one of whom inherited his mother's genius for wax. Together they kill everyone who comes near them & turn people into wax figurines to decorate the town.

Many "gore gags" are original & first rate, as good as gore gags can get, & not at all the tired same-old. So too the stalking set-ups are genuinely tense, unlike the usual by-the-numbers slasher film with a psycho stomping around the countryside.

But the real star of this film remains the deserted art deco village that time forgot, & the highly ornate wax museum itself. The climactic visual, sustained for about twenty breathless minutes, shows the melting of the entirety of the wax museum, with villains & our two heros still in it as it sludges & goops & sinks around them into a hot pool. This is happening before my eyes & I'm going "Zow, yow, wow, & great wango jolly, this is effing A!"

Granny Artemis & I watched it with a couple friends who don't watch as much of this stuff as we do, & they thought it was gross, shocking, & over the top. But I thought it was pretty. The grotesque beauty of the piece makes it much, much more than trashy horror. Not that it isn't also trashy horror, but it's simply delivers much more than just that in the elegance & strangeness of the set designs. This is simply good junk food.

Plenty of extras on the DVD, including a piece on the inspiration for the truly inspired village & a piece about the use of all that actual wax, plus several lesser things.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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