If you think Judge Mitchell Hattaway is going to make a Paris Hilton joke here, you must be looking at the world through a rose-colored night-vision camera lens.
Prey. Slay. Display.
This is getting ridiculous.
Facts of the Case
College kids on a road trip. Unexpected detour. Homicidal yokels. 'Nuff said.
Don't let the fact that a major studio gave this movie a wide theatrical release fool you. Despite the superior production values, this terminally stupid, in-name-only remake of the Vincent Price classic (it owes more to the Chuck Conners turkey Tourist Trap than it does the 1953 Wax or the original Mystery of the Wax Museum) is arguably no better than any of the numerous straight-to-DVD slasher flicks that have been released over the past couple of years. The brain-dead characters aren't likeable or interesting, the plot is full of holes, there's not enough violence, sex or gore to please the faithful, and the movie's a good twenty minutes too long. See? Same old, same old.
The basic plot involves six kids on their way to a college football game. They detour around a washed-out road, camp out for the night, piss off a redneck who has done them no wrong, and end up being stalked and killed. This is roughly the 7,563rd retread of this story I've seen in the past eighteen months. It is possible to make a genuinely good movie using such a plot. Alexandre Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes did it through sheer technical craft, but that's one of the rare exceptions. The majority of these flicks are stale before the negative arrives at the lab.
Here's what went through my mind while I was watching House of Wax:
• I couldn't believe someone actually hired Paris Hilton to act. Her acting here is even more listless than her performance in that other movie she made (you know the one). Then again, I guess it takes a special kind of talent to make a corpse look vapid.
• I couldn't believe a fully furnished workshop would appear out of nowhere, thereby allowing Hilton's character to hide inside before one of the villains finally dispatches here. Seriously, it just appears out of the ether. It's apparently located fifteen feet away from where the kids are camping out, but there's not a single establishing shot revealing its existence before Hilton ducks into it.
• I couldn't believe the heroine could walk into a church, leave, return four hours later, and not wonder why everyone inside—including the priest—hadn't moved an inch.
• I couldn't believe one of the villains could shower one of his victims with hot wax and not get any in the poor bastard's eyes.
• I couldn't believe the other villain could take a crossbow shot to the lung and not be affected whatsoever.
• I couldn't believe the two characters who survive the entire ordeal could sneak into the villains' home, walk around for a few minutes, and somehow end up in a wax museum that's a good three hundred yards away. Seriously, one minute they're in the house, next thing you know they're in the wax museum. There's no secret passageway, no sliding doors, no underground tunnel, no teleporter, nothing. They're just there all of a sudden.
• I couldn't believe that the two survivors could crawl around a burning, melting two-story structure, run down melting stairs, fall through a melting floor, and dig their way through a melting wall without receiving a single burn.
• I couldn't believe director Jaume Collet-Serra couldn't generate a single moment of suspense or tension.
• I couldn't believe writers Chad and Carey W. Hayes couldn't inject one honest emotion, realistic human action, or believable line of dialogue into their script. Then I discovered that they used to write for Baywatch Nights. Now I believe it.
Here's the technical stuff: Ninety percent of the movie takes place at night or in darkened interiors, and shadow detail and black levels are solid. The few bright colors you'll find really pop, and the daytime exteriors look uniformly excellent. Unfortunately, a couple of darker shots are extremely noisy, and one scene is practically swimming in grain. The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is more subdued than I was expecting; dialogue is always intelligible, the music sounds excellent, and there is some deep, tight bass action, but the surrounds are underutilized. The extras have been ported straight from the standard release. Aside from the theatrical trailer and an unfunny gag reel, there are featurettes on the production design and makeup/practical/visual effects (the only interesting aspects of the movie), an alternate opening, and some mind-numbingly awful footage of the cast sitting on a couch and making inane comments about some behind-the-scenes footage they're watching. There's also some rather goofy footage of producer Joel Silver hyping the movie from the set of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; this footage ends with Silver being struck by a speeding car, which I'm sure pleased Richard Donner to no end.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy seeing Elisha Cuthbert in her skivvies. And the bit where she gets punched square in the face is pretty cool, too.
Allow me to quote co-producer Richard Mirisch: "Wax itself, when it melts, is not really that interesting."
Competently-lit junk is still junk.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• B-Roll and Bloopers Video Cast Commentary
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