House of Wax (2005)

Reviewed By Todd LaPlace
Posted 12/09/05 16:55:46

"Caution: Worst Movie Ever Ahead"
1 stars (Sucks)

“Freddy vs. Jason” was just a movie with a body count. “Halloween: Resurrection” is about Web cams. “Boogeyman” and “Darkness Falls” were about the Boogeyman and the Tooth Fairy. “The Amityville Horror” was barely even a horror movie. These five represent the bottom of the horror barrel. Somehow “House of Wax” managed to out stink them all and no sleazy, scantily-clad heiresses can save it. This train wreck is so awful, it surpassed the “so bad it’s good” stop and went right back to bad again.

In a display of uncommonly aware reflexivity, Paris Hilton was given permission to sell shirts with the message “On May 6th, Watch Paris Die.” Read critically, there is a meta-awareness of her celebrity that places her on par with the likes of William Shatner and Erik Estrada; she’s selling an established image of herself and self-consciously mocking the ludicrous nature of that image.

But alas, that’s giving her too much credit. The shirts are really just another example of Hilton’s willingness to prostitute herself for an easy buck and another ten seconds of fame. In this case, those seconds come thanks to “House of Wax,” a cheesy remake that doesn’t deserve such heavy consideration. If it was a more creative movie, it would be somewhat disconcerting that Hilton and Warner Bros. decided to give up such a juicy plot element as who gets killed, but it’s clear within the first ten minutes which of the six sexy teenagers are getting whacked and which will survive to inexplicably overcome a heavily-armed serial murderer.

Everything about this quickie flick screams bland unoriginality, which is actually unfortunate because with visuals this good, the film could have been slasher genius. Extra age does not translate into extra wisdom, as these college kids act like they’ve never seen a horror movie, so they are certainly unaware they are in one or how to survive it. Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) is the sweet one getting ready to move to New York, with or without her sweet, boring boyfriend Wade (“Gilmore Girls’ ” Jared Padalecki) and sweet, slutty best friend Paige (Hilton). Carly’s rebellious twin Nick (Chad Michael Murray) is the G-rated badass that’s kept around by best friend Dalton (Jon Abrahams) and Paige’s boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri’chard), who are both too boring to have personalities of their own. The sad thing is the film spends a considerable amount of energy fleshing out a backstory for these characters, but each one is nothing more than a one- or two-word description and a beautifully choreographed death sequence.

On the road from Florida to Louisiana for a college football game, the six decide to shave an hour off their trip by taking a backwater short cut. Saving an hour on an already two-day trip may seem pretty asinine, especially when they decide to just camp out in a random field for the night. A random field that smells really bad and has mysterious trucks pulling up to it. Now, I’m not saying they should already be worried about getting hacked to bits, but when you wake up the morning after antagonizing a creepy truck driver and your brand new fan belt is broken, you might want to start worrying. Even if you’re not already concerned, finding an open roadkill grave nearby, as well as a local loner willing to step into it to investigate the hand sticking up out of the middle, should probably make you want to run away pretty quickly.

But, of course, the sextet doesn’t run. In fact, Carly and Wade head off with the loner to seek an auto body shop to fix the broken car. The nearest town is so small and dinky, it doesn’t even register on the car’s navigation system. It probably doesn’t exist on the maps because it is not actually from 2005 — the town is so dead, the movie theater is still showing “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” The town’s lone claim is the house of wax on (haunted) hill, a building so insane, it’s actually made of wax. Let’s recap: you had a late night run in with a mysterious truck, your car was vandalized, you’re alone in a town made of wax and the only nearby person collects dead animals on the road. What do you do? Ignore the closed sign, of course, and walk right into the abandoned museum calling, “Hello? Anyone here?” Just kill them already, please. If they’re going to be this cliché and stupid, they deserve to die, because with that much wax around, at least their deaths are bound to be worthwhile.

The killings themselves — which are few since the cast is so small — are actually bland, D-grade rip-offs of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but at least one of the post-death scenes is amazing. One of the reasons the town is so quiet is it is literally dead — all of the wax statues are human at their core, and with six fresh statues waltzing into town, you can bet at least a couple will end up as part of the display. The wax team deserves so much credit for crafting at least one moment that will be remembered fondly. Likewise, the final sequence, awash in melting wax, is nearly worth the price of admission. Working with visuals seems to come pretty naturally to director Jaume Collet-Serra, coming from a music video background, but it’s clear he’s not used to tying it to substance. The melting wax is amazing to watch, if only you didn’t have to sit through that wooden horror movie first.

You might be tempted to watch “House of Wax” just to watch Paris Hilton get whacked. Since she does little more than give a slow strip tease, she does no worse than anyone else in this movie, making her death scene terribly unsatisfactory. If you must, the scene comes around the 1 hour, 15 minute mark. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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