Wednesday, May 11, 2005

House of Wax

dir. by Jaume Serra

Before seeing this film, I read a few reviews of it, and one thing I noticed in a lot of reviews and found very interesting was that there is a sub genre of horror movies called "Wax House Horror Movies." This would include a slew of titles such as the 1953 original "House of Wax," "Mysteries of the Wax Museum," and "Waxwork I & II." I've seen all of the above mentioned and have now seen the in-name only remake that came to theaters this past weekend, and I can honestly say that I see why so many filmmakers have dipped into this well. A "House of Wax" is a creepy establishment; the whole idea of devoting your life to making wax sculptures is in itself (no offense to wax sculptors) a little weird. In "House of Wax," Elisha Cuthbert at one point makes the comment: "I don't know. Making things out of wax is kind of creepy." You gotta love it when a character is telling you when you should start getting scared. Maybe Cuthbert will next be cast in the live action adaptation of "Simon Says."

As Chris pointed out in his excellent review, this is the tenth studio horror film to hit the big screens this year, and there are about fifteen more or so left to come out in 2005. This also marks the fifth Dark Castle Films production. Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver created this low budget horror producing company in 2000, and since have released "House on Haunted Hill," "Thirteen Ghosts," "Ghost Ship," and "Gothika." If you've seen any of these films, there is a good chance you forgot they existed. Zemeckis and Silver had a bold agenda in mind, but so far have only brought us four previous pictures that have their moments, but in the end really don't register that high on the horror radar. I'm not sure any of these films would have even made the cut list for a "Tales from the Crypt" episode; the HBO series that Zemeckis, Silver, and Walter Hill produced in the early nineties. So, is "House of Wax" the best Dark Castle film yet? Yes. Is "House of Wax" any good? No.

So, why is "House of Wax" so bad? Where does one start to anwser a question like this? Let's go with the screenplay. Chad and Carey Hayes have written a slew of movies I haven't seen and am pretty sure were released direct to video; they've also written for some high profile television shows, like for instance, "Baywatch Nights." And if you've never seen "Baywatch Nights," it's hillarious. David Hasselhoff and Angie Harmon get to do their take on "The X-Files." It is as bad as it sounds and even more fun than it has any right to be. I digress, so back to "House of Wax." The Hayes brothers have delivered a screenplay that reads like something from two writers who write direct to video movies and bad t.v. shows. You get the idea? In fact, if Silver and Zemeckis didn't put their names on this it would have taken that direct route. So, one wonders why they ever put their name on this in the first place?

The story is not a bad one. A group of twentysomethings get stranded in a small ghost town inhabited by two crazy rednecks, who are also twins (whoo! Creepy!!!), and soon get hacked off one by one. There is also a house of wax in the town, hence the title. Not a great story, by any means, but if you're going to make a decent movie with a few scares here and there and some unique killings, there's enough to work with. Greater movies have been made with much less story.

However, the Hayes brothers have no idea what is scary. They also have no idea why it's annoying to bring up pointless subject matter without having any kind of rhyme or reason for it being there in the first place. Take for instance, the opening scene. This scene takes place 25 years ago or so. We see two kids in their high chairs. One is being a good boy and eating his Cheerios, and the other is having to be strapped down into his chair because he is ranting and raving like a crazed lunatic. These are of course supposed to be the twins. But cut to the present and they're both crazy bastards who are killing people and turning them into wax sculptures. So, what was the point of having one of them be a good kid? I thought at least in the end you would see the good one finally get sick of his evil twin and kill him to save our remaining heroes, and then die in a fire or something anti-climatic. Original? No. But at least it would have made the beginning have some meaning to it. There's also a twist thrown in at the end, that I won't give away if you're dying to see this, but it makes the opening even more pointless and confusing. Another one of the pointless endeavors the Hayes brothers throw at us is the fact that Paris Hilton's (more on her in a second) character is probably pregnant. They don't say she is, but that she might be, but who the fuck cares? This serves no purpose in the film. She almost tells her boyfriend before he is sliced and diced, and then of course she gets offed herself. But her being possibly pregnant does nothing for the film. It has no bearing on her death; maybe we're supposed to care more about her living because of this fact, but then tell us she is pregnant not that she might be. Or maybe even have the fetus get cut out of her during her death. Gross, I know, but it would have given a point to the predicament.

As far as the acting goes, I don't even know what to say? In almost all of the reviews I've read for this film, Paris Hilton is getting lambasted for her performance. Before you criticize someone for their acting; can we at least see them try to act out an actual character. Is Paris Hilton an actress? After seeing this film, I have no idea. It's not her fault she couldn't do anything with this bullshit character. Julia Roberts wouldn't have made this character more endearing, so how can I possibly comment on Hilton's performance. And the same goes for everyone else in this cast. I know Elisha Cuthbert and Chad Michael Murray are capable of acting due to other roles, but they are given nothing to do here. Brian Van Holt, playing the evil twins, is given the most to do, and he comes off better than the rest, but I wouldn't rush out my Oscar votes just yet.

I will say this for the film. Serra seems like a capable director given some better material to work with. He has a lot of nice coverage and shots that makes me interested to see what he'll tackle next. The last third of this film is actually pretty damn intense; once most of the annoying twentysomethings are dispatched with. Harry Knowles made the point that it almost seems like Robert Zemeckis kicked Joel Silver out of the room and took over the reigns for the third act; that's very possible. At least at that point the movie starts to become a little more fun, and the only good set piece in the movie, the "House of Wax" becomes almost a character in itself. But by the time the first two acts are over, this movie is in no position to save itself. The success of the third act basically makes the movie even more annoying. If they had this good of an ending then why the hell couldn't they put two better acts on top of it. All around, this film is a complete waste of time. Even though, I saw the damn thing for free, I think I should have received some money from Joel Silver for wasting two hours of my life.

Final Grade: D


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