Review by Mark Walters


Okay, so the horror film genre is definitely the "in" thing at the moment.  There's no denying it.  The question is, can someone do a horror film that is impressive and unique without simply being a remake?  HOUSE OF WAX may not be the most original screenplay to come along in years, but it does present a decent take on the horror film genre.  I mean lets face it, wax museums have always been just a tad creepy by nature.  Take that established theme, and build a horror film around it, surely it has to work on some levels, right?.

Elisha Cuthbert knows how to "touch" people.

 HOUSE OF WAX begins with a vague flashback from 1974, showing us a mother and father with their two young boys.  No faces are shown, but we see that one of the boys is calm and collected, while the other one behaves like a little monster.  Cut to present day, where a group of young people are preparing to take a road trip so they can see the most "important game of the year."  The gang consists of Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki), Carly's belligerent brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray) and his buddy Dalton (Jon Abrahams), and Blake (Robert Ri'chard) and his girlfriend Paige (Paris Hilton).  Nick has a hate on for Wade, though he himself has a pretty dark past, and seems like an unwelcome addition to the trip.  Blake seems to only be interested in making out with Paige, that is whenever he's not obsessing over his sweet ride.  Dalton spends almost all of his time filming members of the group with his video camera, in true voyeuristic fashion.  Carly and Wade just want to have a good time.  On the way to "the game" they run into a detour, which takes them off the map into a wooded area.  There they decide to camp for the night.  Things seem fine until a guy in a pick-up truck shows up, watching them from a distance, and eventually leaves after they've been disturbed by his presence.  The next day Wade's car ends up out of commission through mysterious circumstances.  After finding a strange pile of stinky dead animals, Carly and Wade hitch a ride with a creepy dude who takes them to a small town on the other side of the forest.  This town looks like it's stuck in the past, and they begin to wonder what they've walked into.  Wade persuades Carly to check out the local House of Wax, which is filled with strange wax figures, none of whom seem to be recognizable.  While in town they meet a local gas station attendant, who seems pretty helpful at first.  It isn't long before they realize this town isn't at all what it appears to be, and their lives may very well be in danger.

 This movie harkens back to the day of 1980's slasher films like FRIDAY THE 13th.  Perhaps the most stand-out aspect of the movie is it's consistent use of in-your-face gore.  The inevitable death scenes are extremely violent, and graphically depicted.  Plus they're creative deaths, which keeps us wondering how the next person will buy it.  The best quality however lies in the film's storytelling, which thankfully never forces any scare on us.  In this day of cheesy horror films that try so hard to build up a manufactured jump from the audience, this flick is just scary as it is.  The performances are pretty good on the whole.  I must admit I'm a bit biased when it come to Elisha Cuthbert.  Heck, I could watch that girl pour tar for two hours and not get bored.  She looks good here, regardless of the situation.  Plus her acting is spot on.  Cuthbert never seems overconfident, or clichéd.  She just works.  Jared Padalecki does a pretty good job as Wade, although there are more than a few frustrating moments in the story where his character is just way too nosy for his own good.  It's the kind of thing that makes you wonder why this guy wouldn't be more concerned that someone would be watching him as he snoops around.  Chad Michael Murray is pretty good as the flawed brother character, and delivers some nice moments when least expected.  The rest of the supporting cast does pretty well, even if they're just going through the motions with the script.

Now let's talk about Paris Hilton.  I must admit, I thought she'd be the kiss of death for the film, but she's surprisingly pretty good.  Aside from the reluctance to believe she could ever be a "normal" type of girl, her performance is pretty impressive considering who she is in real life.  There's even a sensual strip scene, which oddly enough doesn't get as corny as it easily could have.  Perhaps the most impressive performance comes from Brian Van Holt, who plays the most layered character in the film.  We never seem to know what's going on in his head, even when the script tells us everything we think we need to know.

The movie is directed by newcomer Jaume Serra, who does a great job playing out the story.  I really admire his technique in making this scary without forcing us to jump.  The wax aspects of the story are even more creepy than one might imagine, often giving us some pretty disturbing moments that will definitely leave a lasting impression.  The directing style is obviously inspired, but never feels hacked out.  There are a few moments of over the top action toward the end of the film, but overall this makes for an impressive horror flick.  I was pleasantly surprised at how fresh some of it was.  The last time I saw a film similar to this was the low budget classic WAXWORK.  This film is done with an obviously bigger budget, and they do a great job with what's at their disposal.  There is a bit of question about how things in this town have managed to go so long without catching attention from authorities, but hey, it's a horror film.  Granted it's not Academy Award material, but if you like slasher flicks, particularly the classics we grew up with, this film is sure to please. score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give HOUSE OF WAX a 7.

Visit the MGM official HOUSE OF WAX movie website by clicking here.

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