Director – Anthony Hickox
Cast – Zach Galligan, Jennifer Bassey, Joe Baker, Deborah Foreman, Dana Ashbrook, Micah Grant, Michelle Johnson, Mihaly ‘Michu’ Meszaros, Jack David Walker, David Warner, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Buckley Norris
Release Year – 1988
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Waxwork is a film I had been wanting to see for quite some time due to my heavy enjoyment of writer/director Anthony Hickox’s Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, and his good-but-sadly-not-enough-to-save-the-film direction in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. His first feature film, Waxwork shows Hickox’s ability to come up with clever ideas for the horror genre, and despite some writing faults he coupled his unique ideas with good direction and manages to deliver a mostly positive watch in the end.
We follow college slacker Mark, his bitchy new girlfriend Sarah, and four of their friends as they accept an invitation to attend a special showing at a mysterious wax museum in town. The showing will showcase the 18 most evil men of all time, but there is a catch: no one will make it out alive. As Mark’s friends begin to disappear in the wax museum his investigation leads him to a startling discovery; when you enter one of the museum’s exhibits you are forced to live the story, and then be killed in the exhibit.
I honestly went into this film with high expectations, and I feel it worked against me a little bit. Films involving turning humans into inanimate objects have always caught my attention, so when I came across this flick I really went into it figuring it would be like a mixture of Tourist Trap and The Funhouse, but I was quite wrong.
The overall storyline is a cool one, and I enjoyed the idea of a spooky wax museum holding a late night showing in which the guests are put through terrible ordeals that ultimately end with them spending eternity in the exhibit themselves. What I did not expect was all of the unique ideas thrown in where the person would actually live the exhibit, and then be forced to endure the horrors that come with each unique killer/subject. This idea was great, and it definitely added a fresh touch to a horror sub-genre that has not been overdone, but usually comes with the same antics. We are given numerous awesome sequences that involve nearly every horror sub-genre there is. Zombies, vampires, werewolves, a mummy, a witch, an urban legend, a voodoo priest, the invisible man, Frankenstein’s monster, a pod ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a demonic baby, an alien, Jack The Ripper, Mr. Hyde, The Phantom of the Opera, and several others are thrown into the mix, delivering what I believe to be a film with more shout-outs than the king of shout-outs, Night of the Creeps. Sadly, while all of these ideas came via very creative means I did find the film to drag at times, and I admit that I was not overly interested in every exhibit that we were exposed to. This is ultimately what kept this film from really appealing to me in a positive way, and had this fault been fixed and toned up with more interesting elements then the film would have received a higher(7+) rating.
Thankfully, Hickox’s direction is great as usual, and he employs numerous awesome sets that helped sell the film visually to me. I loved the lighting and atmosphere created with each set, and was very surprised to see that each of the film’s exhibits carried their own unique atmosphere to them. For instance: the zombie scene was shot in black and white, and was very reminiscent of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I loved this, and it shows that Hickox is a truly great director who for some reason never broke it big in the genre despite delivering several solid directing efforts. The acting is bad and cheezy, but that is expected with these low-budget 80s films, and in my mind the bad acting does not hurt the film whatsoever, but in fact adds some personality to the mix. It does not work with every film, but it works for this one. As if Hickox’s direction could not get any better, the live-action FX used in the film are fantastic, and we get tremendously awesome looking creatures/monsters/zombies/etc. that not only look great, but deliver some great live-action gore as well.
Overall, this is a fun watch thanks to its very unique storyline and awesome direction. A few faults lie within the story that leads the film to drag here and there, but once again Anthony Hickox delivers a well executed horror film that delivers the goods in numerous forms and makes for a mostly positive watch.