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Bewildering Stories

Jaume Collet-Serra, House of Wax

reviewed by Chris Stires

House of Wax
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay: Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes
Story: Charles Belden
Starring : Paris Hilton, Elisha Cuthbert,
Chad Michael Murray
Length: 1 hr. 53 min.
Date: 2005
Prey. Slay. Display.

When I was a kid, around Halloween, they used to show the Vincent Price movie House of Wax (1953) on television. It was a treat along with movies like Forbidden Planet, Mysterious Island, The Thing, and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. I have fond memories of this little film (shot in glorious color and 3-D although I didn’t know that back then with our black-and-white television), and any discussion of the stalwarts of the horror genre has to include Price.

The executives at Warner Brothers decided to remake House of Wax. The ’53 version itself was a remake of The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). One-note, non-actor Hilton was cast first: she was the director’s only choice for the role of Paige. My guess is the director hoped the advance word of Hilton being murdered would generate ticket sales. Maybe it did.

The opening flashback is intriguing but then we get to the main storyline. Four college friends along with one girl’s brother and his buddy are heading for a big college football game. (College kids on a road trip. I’m noticing a trend here.)

Every character in this story is a stereotype although the relationship between the sister (Cuthbert) and the brother (Murray) could’ve been developed into something. The potential was there. Anyway, they take a shortcut off the main highway (what a surprise) and, while on the back road, one car breaks down (another surprise).

Two kids hitch a ride from a creepy local to the nearest town. But the town seems to be deserted. They wander around looking for help and discover the House of Wax. I need a new word for lame unsatisfactory, insufficient, weak, feeble, poor, unpersuasive, unconvincing, flimsy take your pick. Even the supposed twists and shocks weren’t.

Okay, I squirmed a little in the finger-and-the-grate scene. Perhaps if they’d cast every role with a famous person who is famous for no discernible reason they might have had something. But I doubt it. And the ending, which was to be expected, is jaw-dropping bad. The final shot of the two killer brothers kicked the lame meter off the scale.

TRIVIA: The sculptor of the figures in the House of Wax is named Vincent as an homage to Mr. Price. I think he would’ve passed on the honor.

Copyright © 2007 by Chris Stires

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