out of Five
Running time: 113
House of Wax starts badly but redeems itself with a supremely gory second half and some superb special effects. Plus, you get to see Paris Hilton meet a grisly end…
House of Wax is the latest film from the crypt of Dark Castle productions, a studio offshoot dedicated to remaking or revamping classic horror movies and marketing them for a modern day audience.
Luckily for fans of the original 1953 Vincent Price flick (in 3D!), House of Wax isn’t exactly a remake, it’s more of a straightforward gore-fest that just happens to have a wax museum in it. As such, it gleefully trots out all the clichés of the genre before going out in a blaze of glory with a truly spectacular final act.
The film’s nominal star is Elisha Cuthbert, who demonstrated her abilities in the running, screaming and jiggling departments in TV’s 24. She plays Carly, one of six clueless New York teens who are attempting an overnight drive upstate to see The Big Game.
Her psycho-fodder companions include: her ex-con brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), her strait-laced boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki), another couple (Paris Hilton and Robert Ri’chard) and Nick’s goofy best friend Dalton (Jon Abrahams).
When Wade’s car breaks down, he and Carly find themselves in a seemingly deserted town that’s dominated by a huge wax museum and only appears to have one inhabitant (a creepy Brian Van Holt). What’s more, the wax museum seems to be made out of actual wax. One ill-advised “You stay here - I’ll just have a quick look round” later and, yes, the teens start disappearing one by one…
House of Wax takes ages to get going – the first half is enlivened only by Carly somehow ending up elbow-deep in rotting animal carcasses. This scene actually serves two distinct purposes: it lets you know that things are going to get a lot gorier and it gives Elisha an excuse to change into a skimpier top (which also gives Murray a chance to get his shirt off).
The Gratuitous Violence
However, despite a slow and occasionally annoying first half, House of Wax suddenly explodes with gore and violence at around about the time that the first teen disappears. Sure enough, it isn’t long before fingers are being cut off with bolt-cutters, mouths are being superglued together and Achilles tendons are being severed. There’s also a terrific scene involving a cinema full of wax dummies watching Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
The cast are surprisingly good. Elisha Cuthbert makes a great Scream Queen and Chad Michael Murray’s Bad Boy act is actually quite convincing, especially considering he was last seen as Hilary Duff’s romantic lead in A Cinderella Story.
Even Paris Hilton does better than you might expect, though the studio’s decision to promote the film with the tag-line “See Paris Die!” is probably wise, given the applause and laughter that accompanies her amusingly suggestive death scene.
The film is so gory and violent that it’s actually hard to understand how this escaped an 18 certificate. At any rate, House of Wax delivers nicely on the required level of shocks and screams and is definitely worth seeing for its stunning finale. Recommended.