Director – Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast – Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Jared Padalecki, Paris Hilton, Jon Abrahams, Robert Ri’chard, Damon Herriman
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Prior to re-watching this film for the review, the only previous time I had seen this flick was back in 2005 when it debuted in theaters. I remembered enjoying it back then, and after another watch I can see that 5.5 years later I still find House of Wax to be an enjoyable watch. Not a remake but sharing the name of wax idea with the 1953 Vincent Price-starring classic House of Wax, which itself was a remake of the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum, this teeny and surprisingly R-rated film delivers some good entertainment and positive horror as well.
When plans to attend a big college football game fall through, six friends on a road trip find themselves stranded in a ghost town not located on any maps or GPS devices. The town’s main attraction is it’s wax museum, House of Wax, but the an eerie feeling looms over the friends as they search for a way back home from the small town. The wax figures look too realistic, and the town seems deserted except for a man with sinister plans to make the six friends the newest attraction to his infamous House of Wax.
As mentioned earlier, this is not a true remake of the 1953 film, but somewhat of a spin-off if anything. The idea of a group of young adults/teens traveling in unfamiliar territory in search of fun and boozing then coming across utter chaos is not a new idea, but it works for me in that it provides for a fut atmosphere given you can put yourself in the shoes of the protagonists, especially if you have enjoyed a road trip or two in the past. We get a fair amount of development to start things off, but that did not surprise me given the film runs a strong 113 minutes. Thankfully, the development was worthwhile and set the fun yet spooky tone that the film would deliver throughout, and it was paced well enough that it did not overstay its welcome, and the story quickly progressed at proper intervals. I really enjoyed the inclusion of the ghost town inhabited by nothing but wax figures, and the mystery behind what was going on was well-written in that it kept me in the dark just as our characters were in the dark over what was going on around them. When they finally make their way to the House of Wax we are introduced to the horror that would ensue for the rest of the film, and while the horror was not overly present it was good enough to keep me engaged and enjoying the story with the constant twists and turns and high levels of tension. I must commend the Chad and Chase Hayes for giving me an enjoyable story, which included quite a few typical cliches that I would usually find useless, but they worked for this film, so I’ll take it. Sadly, it seems the Hayes writing success was short lived, as they went on to write the screenplays for the mediocre-or-worse films The Reaping and Whiteout.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra made his directing debut with this film, and he shows that he was well-deserving of his latter films Orphan and Unknown with his positive direction in this watch. His atmosphere is perfect thanks to fantastic sets that bleed creativity, which came complimented with perfect lighting and camerawork that helped deliver the horror in good fashion. He also provides a “fun” atmosphere as well, consisting of popular and trendy songs as well as plenty of sex(implied, no nudity) and booze to go around. I found this positive, but I prefer the creepy atmosphere over the fun atmosphere any day. We are given some pretty sweet kills as well, which honestly surprised me even with the film’s R-rating, mainly because I just did not expect a “teen” feeling film to deliver good gore, but I was wrong and was exposed to some fantastic live-action gore, including one grisly kill involving a certain socialite getting a wooden stake through the face that had me laughing out loud the first time I saw the scene in theaters. The entire cast did what they could as far as performances go, and it is obvious that their somewhat cheezy acting was required for this type of film as a homeage to older horror flicks, so I had no problems with them whatesoever.
Overall, House of Wax is a fun and spooky experience that thanks to a good story and Jaume Collet-Serra’s fantastic direction results in a positive experience that delivers some good horror. The film can come off a bit “teeny” at times, but with great kills, good atmosphere/sets, and diabolical fates for our protagonists, this non-remake should not be under-estimated…because it delivers.