House of Wax Review
By Shawn McKenzie 05/08/2005
Dark Castle doesn’t have a great track record with me. Their first movie, 1999’s House on Haunted Hill, was just okay. Unfortunately, 2001’s Thir13en Ghosts was just okay too. 2002’s Ghost Ship started out with some promise, but it got boring after that. I never saw 2003’s Gothika, Dark Castle’s only non-remake, but from what I heard, most people had the same reaction that I had about the other movies. I was hoping that House of Wax would be different…but it wasn’t.
The movie has little resemblance to the 1953 original, aside from having a house of wax in it and someone named Vincent (as in Vincent Price, the star of the original movie…and his character was named Professor Henry Jarrod.) It starts in 1974, where a couple living in the small town of Ambrose are raising their two sons. Dr. Victor Sinclair (Murray Smith) and his wife Trudy (Dragitsa Debert) have created a wax museum in town, and they are very abusive to both boys, Bo (Thomas Adamson) and Vincent (Sam Harkess), though Vincent seems to get the brunt of the abuse. Flash forward to the present, and we see a group of teenagers heading to a football game in Baton Rouge this weekend for which they need to buy scalped tickets to the sold out game. They are taking two cars. In one car is Carly Jones (Elisha Cuthbert), who is going to the game to relax before heading off to college in New York. She is going with her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki) and her twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray.) Wade is upset that Nick is going with them, but Carly explains that Nick was just bailed out of jail, so he needs to cool off a little. Carly’s best friend Paige Edwards (Paris Hilton) and her boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri’chard) are in the second car. Blake is also friends with Nick, and he was the one who bailed the rebel teen out. Oh…we also have the sixth wheel Dalton (Jon Abrahams), who is just there to “be funny” and be obvious serial killer bait. He films all of them with his camcorder, which annoys all of them. Paige confides to Carly that she might be pregnant, but she doesn’t know how to tell Blake. It’s a pointless back-story plot development that is useless anyway, considering what may or may not happen to the character. For some odd reason, the six stupid kids decide to go camping in Deliverance country, where they just drink and make out (except for Nick and Dalton, of course.) Their reasoning is that they don’t want to drive all the way to a motel, so camping is good enough (apparently they must have been planning this already, since they had tents and camping gear with them.) While camping, they notice a bad smell. They don’t think twice about it, but then a truck comes up to their campsite and just waits. Nick demands that the truck driver turn off his lights, and when the truck driver doesn’t do that, Nick throws a bottle at it, smashing one of the headlights. The truck goes away, and the kids go to sleep. They wake up the next day late and start to pack up, but as they are ready to leave, Wade notices that the fan belt in his car is broken off. While trying to figure out what to do about it, Carly decides to find out what the foul smell is (horror movie cliché #2?) Paige doesn’t want to go with her, but she does anyway, and Carly ends up falling down a hill and into a pool of dead deer and other road kill. The guys help her out, but a local man (Damon Herriman) comes by and dumps some more dead deer in the pool. After confirming that there isn’t a human in there too (they saw a hand sticking out, but it was a mannequin), the man offers to give Wade a ride to Ambrose to buy a fan belt. Carly comes with him, and after a while, the local man creeps them out by waving around his knife, so they ask to be let out. They walk to town and to a gas station, which appears to be abandoned. Soon they go to a church that seems to be holding a funeral at the time. A man named Bo (Brian Van Holt) is one of the grieving, and he is ticked that they had interrupted the service, but later apologizes and says that he will get Wade his fan belt (he is the owner of the gas station) if they wouldn’t mind waiting a half an hour. On the way back to the station, they check out Trudy’s Famous House of Wax, which they discover is literally made of wax. The house is closed, and it is creepy, so of course Wade wants to go in (horror movie cliché #3?) They encounter Vincent (Van Holt again) and are freaked out, so they go back to the gas station. When Bo comes back, he invites them to his house to get that fan belt (he didn’t have the right size belt in his station.) Horror movie circumstances arise, resulting in Wade being stuck in the house and Carly escaping. Meanwhile, the other four tried to go to the game, but because they were late and the traffic was bad, they go back to the campsite. Nick and Dalton take Blake’s car and drive it to look for Carly and Wade (why oh why didn’t they think of driving Blake’s car before?) The adult Bo and Vincent are the obvious killers, and the kids get bumped off one by one, both in Ambrose and back at the campsite.
The best thing I can say about this movie is that it wasn’t wussy with the horror. In fact, all of the Dark Castle movies have been appropriately R-rated and brutal. There is a scene where one of the main survivors (I won’t tell you which one) doesn’t escape the end of the movie with all of this character’s fingers. That was different, but the rest of the movie is very predictable.
Jaume Serra, a director of TV commercials and music videos, makes his theatrical directorial debut with this movie. He does a decent job with what he has to work with, considering one of the things that he has to work with is Hilton. He does throw in the highly clichéd “jump noises,” wherein a noise plays whenever a character (or an animal) jumps suddenly, making another character (and the audience) freak out. I jumped a couple of times, but I don’t know if it was because of what was going on in the movie or because the girl I brought with me to the movie jumped herself. Either way, at least it was slightly scarier than The Ring Two.
One plot devise that was overused was the use of twins in the movie. The movie’s screenwriters, Chad and Carey W. Hayes, both twins themselves, put in two sets of twins in the story. Bo and Vincent, and Carly and Nick, really didn’t need to be twins. It didn’t make the story scarier or more interesting.
The performances in the movie were just okay…even the one from Hilton. I still think that Cuthbert was one of the worst parts of the excellent FOX show “24,” and I haven’t seen her cult favorite movie The Girl Next Door from last year (she was pretty good in her small role in the hilarious 2003 movie Old School though.) She did all right as the heroine of the movie, but I was afraid that she was going to get attacked by a mountain lion (that’s an inside joke by fans of “24.”) I’ve already established that Abrahams wasn’t funny as the “comic relief,” and Hilton was fortunately not in the movie long enough to be too annoying. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you are a Hilton hater, this movie might be sweet justice (I realize that I originally gave a glowing review to the first season of “The Simple Life,” but since then, I have grown tired of Hilton and her ex-best friend Nicole Richie attempting to be funny.) Padalecki and Ri’chard’s talents are wasted as well (though Padalecki got more screen time.) Van Holt wasn’t scary or creepy in either of his dual roles. The big highlight was Murray. After setting up his character as the resident bad boy that we’ve already seen in his three WB shows (“Dawson’s Creek,” “The Gilmore Girls,” and now “One Tree Hill”), he actually looks like he could be an action hero. It’s too bad that his 2003 WB TV movie “The Lone Ranger” didn’t showcase that fact. I hope that he gets a chance to do that someday in a real movie.
House of Wax isn’t the worst horror movie that I’ve ever seen. There are a few decent scares, and it doesn’t skimp on the gore. I just wish that Dark Castle would give us a movie with a good balance of cool horror effects and a good story. It might help if they stopped doing remakes and do an original movie (okay…I will check out Gothika just to confirm if they can do even that.)
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