House of Wax (2005)

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 05/12/05 12:54:10

"Gives 'dumbass slasher flick' a bad name."
1 stars (Sucks)

Here’s how they made the new “House of Wax:” they told the screenwriters a) “make sure it’s called ‘House of Wax’” (check); b) “make sure it’s a horror movie, preferably one with some ultra- gruesome violence” (check); c) “make sure you have a big scene in which a fire melts lots of stuff” (check). This remake fits all three points, yes. But somebody forgot to come along and add anything else. “House of Wax,” it turns out, is a whole lot o’ nothin’.

It surprises me that Dark Castle, the company that’s been remaking classic horror pictures (their “House On Haunted Hill” was underrated brilliance, their “Thirteen Ghosts” was unwatchable slop) and managing to stick fairly closely to the originals (plot-wise, at least), here decides to make an in-name-only upgrade. All we get from the 1953 original (which was, itself, a remake of and an improvement on 1933’s “Mystery of the Wax Museum”) is the title, the notion of somebody killing folks for wax figure purposes, and a scene where stuff burns up real good. Everything else - that is to say, everything that made the 1953 version so outstanding - is forgotten, replaced with substandard Dead Teenager Movie fare. (It’s so derivative it actually involves attractive, dim-witted teens taking a detour through the backwoods of the deep south, only to stumble across a family of redneck maniacs. Seriously, that’s the best they could do?)

Here’s how absolutely moronic the movie gets: the writers (newcomers Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes, for those keeping score), hearing that they need to write a movie called “House of Wax,” decide to make their script about a house made entirely of wax. (And check out the finely honed dialogue, which crackles with sheer poetry: “It is wax, like, literally!” Like, wow.) I can see the Hayes bickering:

Hayes #1: “But dude, the guy told us it’s called ‘House of Wax,’ so that means the house is, like, made of wax.”
Hayes #2: “You sure, dude?”
Hayes #1: “I dunno.”

And thus, another chunk of ass-crap slasher movie is made.

Yeah, even as lame slasher flicks go, this one’s a major dud. Horror movies are not supposed to be this boring; when I wasn’t laughing at the asinine plot developments or the ridiculously inept acting (more on that in a smidge), I was straining to stay awake. Here’s a horror flick in which nothing really happens for a good hour, and then a few things happen, only they’re not that exciting either, and then nothing happens for a little while longer, and then there’s some big finish that probably looked cool on paper but was, in fact, just as dull as the earlier parts. And when the killings finally do happen, they’re the kind of scenes that confuse gross-out for scary, turning this movie into nothing more than a vulgar blood bath. (And if that sounds like you’re kind of horror movie, trust me, it’s a mind-numbingly tedious vulgar blood bath.)

Worse, the film actually suffers because of its desire to include more set-up than the usual slasher pic. “House of Wax” thinks by spending more time with its characters, then we’ll care for them more, I suppose - except that its characters are so obnoxious and generic that we don’t. The film is merely one big waiting game, the audience waiting with all the patience they can possibly muster for these raging idiots to finally - finally!! - croak.

The writers and their director, Jaume Serra (the obligatory music-video-director-making-his-feature-debut they always get for horror movies), seems content with flat content, because, hey, they’ve got Paris Hilton! Yup, the inexplicably famous no-talent V.D. depository is here to buy her way into a movie career, and functionally retarded trust fund kids always get what they want. Her acting’s so exceptionally terrible that I’m surprised she didn’t accidentally slip stage directions into her dialogue. (“Oh. No. Look. Out? Turn page. The killer is. Here. Acts surprised. Screams. Don’t. Kill? Me.”) I’m reminded of all those sports stars who popped up in movies in the 1970s, or politicians who’d host “Saturday Night Live” when they couldn’t find an actual entertainer; Hilton’s performance here recaptures the magic of, say, Bruce Jenner in “Can’t Stop the Music,” or maybe Ralph Nader bungling the punchline off the cue cards in some Mango sketch.

The filmmakers obviously know the value of having Paris Hilton in their film, namely, that we want (and, more importantly, will pay) to see her die, preferably violently. And so the script holds off on it, forcing us to sit through scene after scene in which she stretches her acting chops by playing a spoiled, brainless slut. Finally, when she dies, it becomes a stop-the-movie massive set piece. Too bad the scene doesn’t work in the slightest. It’s not scary, it’s not exciting, it’s just “get on with it already.”

But then, I wouldn’t expect a movie this stupid, this poorly made, to get good just for its one key sellable scene. No, that would go against the many other idiocies - the overdependence on red herrings (just to keep the audience from completely falling asleep, we get fifty gajillion bits where the guy behind the other guy is - nope! not the killer!!), a complete lack of logic (and not just the why-are-you-running-up-the-stairs-you-schmuck variety, but the if-this-is-a-town-frozen-in-time-then-why-is-it-frozen-in-the-60s-when-the-backstory-tells-me-it-should-be-the-80s-or-maybe-90s kind), the terrible cast (not just Hilton, but everyone, ranging from the barely passable thanks-for-the-paycheck performances of Elisha Cuthbert and Chad Michael Murray to the unwatchableness of Jared Padalecki and, in an hysterically dumb double role as the two killers, Brian Van Holt), and, well, did I mention the complete lack of logic? I mean, that melting house looks good, I guess, but come on. I mean, just come on.

A final thought. In the final, not-entirely-boring final half hour, our heroes wind up in an abandoned movie theater where the killer has been playing “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” on an endless loop since he first decided to start luring hapless twits into his ghost town. I’m sure Serra probably thought the image of an aging Bette Davis singing “I’ve Written a Letter To Daddy” while Cuthbert hides from the psycho would make for a cool visual. But he forgets the First Rule of Borrowing Movies: never, ever, ever, ever, ever show a clip from a great movie in your bad movie. It only reminds the audience that they could be watching something infinitely better. And since we’re already pissed that we could be watching the old “House of Wax” instead, well… just another moment when the filmmakers shoot themselves in the foot. But not, like, literally.

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