HOUSE OF WAX
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Year of release: 2005
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 108 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: Prey, Slay, Display
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Six young people are traveling through Louisiana on their way to a football game and feeling tired they decide to pull off the main road and camp for the night in a field. Before they turn in for bed however a mysterious stranger turns up in pickup truck and shines his headlights at the group for an uncomfortable length of time. Bad boy of the group Nick throws a bottle towards the truck shattering one of the headlights at which point the stranger drives off. Come morning however the friends find that one of their two vehicles won't start. Not sure if it is just coincidence or if the truck driver returned while they were asleep to tamper with the car the group splits into two with four carrying on to the football game. The remaining two head to a nearby small town to try and buy a replacement part to get the broken car working again. They soon find however that they have stumbled upon something of a ghost town with a creepy wax museum the centerpiece to eerie surroundings. It soon becomes apparent that the town isn't quite as deserted as they first thought and the wax museum itself holds a grisly secret. Meanwhile the rest of the group get stuck in traffic and end up missing the football game. As such they decide to double back to pick up their friends unwittingly place themselves within the middle of the chaos already underway in the creepy little town.
Good points: Quite a good job is done with characterisation with more of a focus than usual on trying to get us to care about the characters. The first kill doesn't happen until a fair way in so at that point we've had a little more time to warm to the group. One of focal points of the film Nick is also a bit more layered than he first appears having a softer underside and not being quite as much of a troublemaker as he first seems. Made clear from the start that he has been in trouble with the police we later learn that he was actually carrying the can for a friend.
There is a really nice setting with the creepy small hick town where nothing seems quite right making for a great backdrop for the films set pieces. The wax museum itself is also very impressive and the effects towards the end involving this building beginning to melt are very good.
Clever symmetry and imagery highlighting the two sets of twins in the film and how they see themselves with in both instances one being considered the good twin and the other bad.
Although not overly gory the film delivers on occasion with good special effects for a couple of the kills like Paige's death. I'd say it relies more on storytelling and characterisation than gore but there is enough on display not to turn off those who really enjoy seeing the red stuff. There are also good special effects involving the wax works.
The film features some good songs and is also well shot and directed with everything visually being up to a high standard. You can tell a healthy budget was backing things up with in particular the films conclusion no doubt being very expensive to execute. The special effects are certainly very good so if you are normally put off by low budget horror then you have nothing to fear here as it is more at the other end of the scale.
Although it is never truly frightening in the sense that say something like Halloween is due to having a sense of fun about it the film still manages some tense moments be it an intense chase sequence or parts where the killer is hunting for victims in hiding.
Bad Points: For me there isn't much to dislike about this film but there are a few little things that are a tad unrealistic or over the top. Firstly you could say that it was not believable that the whole wax museum could be made entirely from wax and not suffer any consequences just from being out in the hot Louisiana sun day in day out. I don't think it would melt to the level it did at the end of the film but you would think it would take some wear and tear and melt partially perhaps in those places most exposed to the sun. There might be parts where the wax had begun to drip and then hardened again during the night. If they had of added that in a few places it might have added to the realism.
Glue is used by the killer at one point to seal Carly's mouth shut but I don't think this would work as effectively in real life as it does in the film. Probably someone would have to keep their mouth shut for longer than she did in order for the glue to be effective.
Another slightly unrealistic thing is that Bo pulls an arrow out of his arm but he pulls the flight through as well. You would think he would have snipped that part off or at least tried to so that it wasn't as painful to remove.
Similarly it could be said that the film did air on the unrealistic side of things in regards to how many victims had fallen prey to the town over the years. I think it was said to be around seventy people over a ten year period but surely the town would have been investigated and discovered if that many people had gone missing in the area in a relatively short space of time.
This next point is a spoiler but it was a bit over the top that each wax work in the town was supposed to be a real person (well the body of a real person) underneath. Maybe they should just have implied that some of them were.
Verdict: This is a very very good slasher, easily one of the best of the more modern slasher films that came about after the boom period in the eighties. It ticks all the boxes for me and I consider it to be one of my favourite slasher films of all time. Normally when writing reviews things stick out quite noticeably for me to highlight for the bad points but here I really had to nit pick with a few small things related to realism. It seems in general that this film isn't all that well liked with many finding fault with it purely due to Paris Hilton being a part of it but I thought she added to the film if anything and was easily on par with the acting you normally see in the genre. All in all I think this film is great entertainment with very little (if anything) to sour the experience. Highly recommended.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Wade: Ankle slashed and then stabbed in the chest. Later turned into a wax work.
2) Dalton: Decapitated with two knives.
3) Blake: Killed off camera. Looked to have been stabbed in the neck.
4) Carly: Head impaled on a pole.
5) Bo: Beaten to death with a baseball bat by Carly.
6) Vincent: Stabbed as the museum melts by Carly and then falls through the floor and presumably burns to death in the event that he survived the stabbing.