House of Wax (2005) – 31 Days of Horror: Oct 22

by Jovial Jay

Another day, another haunted house film, and another remake! House of Wax offers a lot of promises!

Based on what I recall of the original House of Wax (1953), with Vincent Price, this does not look very much like a remake, but more of a reimagining.

Before Viewing

Based on the trailer, some young adults are partying on someone else’s property, when a menacing 4×4 truck confronts them. They stand up to it, and it leaves. Then they discover a nearby town with a waxworks, that all appear to be abandoned.

Inside the buildings are wax figures that all appear lifelike. Too lifelike! From there some horrific things appear to happen. It doesn’t appear that there’s a direct analogue to the Vincent Price proprietor of the waxworks. But someone is challenging and killing all the kids, by embalming them (alive?) in wax! Light a candle and follow me into the House of Wax!

Presented below is the Trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

After Viewing

House of Wax is unfortunately a molten mess and, so far, the worst horror film I’ve seen all season. The film opens in 1974 with a couple feeding breakfast to their children. One is calm and sweet, but the other is violent and aggressive, and needs to be strapped into his high chair. No names or faces are shown.

In the present day, six colleges students meet at burger stand to start a road trip to Louisiana for “the big game.” They include Claire (Elisha Cuthbert) and her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki), her brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), his friend Dalton (Jon Abrahams), and the final couple Blake and Paige (Robert Ri’chard & Paris Hilton). The shortcut Blake decides to take is closed, which leads them into a strange are. They decide to camp for the night off the main road.

During the night a truck approaches, shining its high-beams on them, so Nick throws a bottle breaking one of the headlights, and it drives off. The next morning Wade’s fan belt is cut. They group sees Lester (Damon Herriman) dropping off some road kill and asks him for a ride into town to get a new fan belt. Wade and Carly go with him, while the others take off to the game.

In town, which appears to be deserted, the two meet Bo (Brian Van Holt) who runs the garage. He lures them into his house, killing Wade and chasing Carly back to the garage where he binds her up and glues her mouth shut. Meanwhile the rest of the gang get stuck in traffic and miss the game, so they return to meet their friends. Nick and Dalton come to town to find Carly and Wade while Blake and Paige stay behind (to have sex! – but you can guess what happens to them!)

Things get out of control as Bo’s twin brother Vincent (also played by Van Holt) comes after Dalton, killing him. Nick runs into Bo, but manages to save Carly. She explains that every wax figure in town is made from real people! They decide to look for Wade one last time (even though the audience knows he’s already dead), and have a showdown with Bo and Vincent in the House of Wax, killing both brothers and setting fire to the entire structure which melts and runs a river of wax down main street.

Carly and Nick get treated the next morning by EMT’s and released. A police officer tells the detective in charge that there weren’t just two brothers – but three! As the ambulance drives off with the siblings, they see Lester with the Sinclair’s dog. He waves to them! Queue the sequel! [Thankfully no sequel was produced.]

I’m sorry mama. These people just have no respect” – Bo Sinclair

I think the quote above just about sums it up. While many slasher style horror films make examples of the cast being killed off for things like drug use and premarital sex, House of Wax kills off the kids for being disrespectful. None of the characters are particularly likable. In order of despicability, Blake and Paige are vapid and sex obsessed, Dalton is a voyeur and general douche, Wade can’t stop snooping to (literally) save his life, and Nick is a jerk. Carly is the only one who seems like she is slightly respectful, but then again, she hangs out with this crowd, and doesn’t really try to get them in line. The fact that Nick and Carly are the only ones to survive makes some sense; Nick does come around and show some better habits, especially when it comes to his sister. But they could have all been killed, and it wouldn’t have made much difference.

And this film, while being called House of Wax, really is not a haunted house film like I was hoping. It’s kind of a haunted town story, or a homicidal maniac story. This neither adds to, or detracts from the overall story, which is pretty standard slasher fare. Kids go and do what their not supposed to, killer stalks them, possibly some survive to tell the tale. The fact that a number of questions about motivations or plot points popped up while watching is never a good sign.

For example where do the brothers get so much wax? The town is so “out of the way” and “hard to get to” the police don’t even pay attention anymore, yet deliveries of wax can get through. In the film there’s a literal House of Wax. How is that possible? How does that stand up? It’s two stories. The weight alone must be enough to cause it to droop. Also, the film takes place in the South, somewhere on the way to Louisiana. Anyone who has spent a summer in the south knows how hot it gets. How do you keep a House of Wax (wax walls, wax roof, wax everything) from melting?

There are several other things from the film that are too “on point,” like the literal house of wax. Bo and Vincent are twin brothers who were conjoined. One is evil and the other good, as the viewer discovers late in the film. This revelation is foreshadowed twice, once when Nick shares that he and Carly are twins and he’s “the bad one,” and a second time when Carly says basically the same thing. Additionally the town theater is playing Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, a 1962 film about a deranged sister tormenting her physically disabled sister. A very spot on parallel to the events between Bo and Vincent.

Other than Brian Van Holt’s performance as Bo (and Vincent), there’s nothing about the cast that really draws any attention to itself. The remake is long and dry, suffering from an over-abusive tone that rehashes the same familiar plot and character traits fans have seen time and time again. I would recommend Dead Ringers with Jeremy Irons for a better film about psychopathic twins, and as far as films about waxworks go, 1988’s Waxwork has lots more fun going for it.

Assorted Musings

  • Not only a remake of House of Wax (1953), but the 1953 film was a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933).
  • Vincent Sinclair is named after Vincent Price, the star of the original version of the film, in tribute.
  • Jared Padalecki may be better known as Sam in the CW TV show Supernatural. He did appear in a much better horror remake, 2009’s Friday the 13th.

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