If you're ever going on a road trip with a bunch of college friends I think it would probably be prudent to take along an extra fanbelt, maybe a few jugs of gasoline as well, at least enough to make it to the next town which is invariably 20 or so miles away from wherever you broke down. House of Wax is the story of just such a breakdown except these kids actually managed to bring along two cars, one of which remains unscathed. Why not pile everyone in? That way they can all make the football game or whatever and not be murdered by the freaks living on the other side of the woods. It would seem an easy answer to an easy question. Except, the car that broke down was pretty sweet. Kid'll be damned if he's gonna leave it to be stripped. Also, no one's been killed yet.
Paris Hilton is in this but don't fret my friends. She acquits herself ok and then gets a pipe through her head. Surprisingly, not much resistance. The girl might even have a bit of a self deprecating sense of humor as there are several shots of her and her on-screen boyfriend, Blake (Robert Ri'chard), making out as they are recorded by a camcorder. Then, later, the killer documents her demise in a similar fashion. Paris' character Paige may even be pregnant which is a bit of a kick in the balls. It also might be one of the picture's few attempts at social commentary. Better Paris receive steel pipe through the noggin' then to let the sexed up socialite unleash her spawn onto the world. I don't know, I think she's probably grown up so maybe the commentaries a bit outdated by now. What I'm sayin is I'd do her.
Ms. Hilton aside, this film firmly belongs to Elisha Cuthbert as Carly and, to a lesser extent, Chad Michael Murray as her delinquent brother Nick. Elisha was in Captivity so not everyone is perfect. She's very good in this one though and her character is run through the wringer. What we're dealing with here is one of those standard forgotten small towns. The kind long abandoned, except for the twin brothers, let's say their names are Bo and Vincent. Bo was always the nice, quiet kid but boy that brother, Vincent. What a fuck up. After everyone abandoned town and, or, died, Bo went on to make something of himself. He ran the gas station, ministered the church, etc while Vincent I guess just occupied himself at the wax museum. Bo proved his superiority when he convinced Vincent that regular people would make better wax people than wax people. Bo's got the brain, Vincent the brawn. Amazingly, they're played by the same guy, Brian Van Holt, in a tour de force performance.
A contemporary slasher film needs two things to get by according to me and I'm sure some others; gore and thrills (an interesting character or two would be nice as well). The gore in this thing is pretty solid. Let's skip right over the roadkill pit and move onto the process for creating wax figures. They use what appears to be an embalming technique that basically turns your skin into wax. If you ever find your friend motionless in a house of wax, except for their eyes, don't, for the love of god, try to peel the "wax" off them. There's an intense scene when Nick is looking for Carly, locked in a room beneath the gas station with her mouth glued shut, as Bo attempts to get rid of him above. Carly slips her fingers through a grate and Bo, unbeknownst to Nick, goes at them with wire cutters. I will say that Bo is a bit of a cut-up and not very scary once you get to know him. His brother is in the silent killer mold like Jason or Michael Myers. Always around when you don't want him to be.
Of course anyone watching this thing is probably watching it for the house, itself. Ok, probably Elisha. Elisha is one, house is two. Anyway, this house is a wonder to behold. The final set-piece elevates this picture above all other slasher films from the current era (Wrong Turn, Chainsaw remakes/reimaginings, and so on). Holy shit man I couldn't tell if this was done with CG or practical effects, but it was astounding. Aside from the wax figures, the entire house is made of wax; the lamps, the beds, the stairs, the fridge....every goddamned thing. To conceive a final scene involving this house going up in flames as characters within fight each other for their lives? How, or why I guess would be the question, do you run up stairs that are melting? And, what the fuck? People have been disappearing off this stretch of highway for years now and, yet, it takes the smoke from a wax fire for the cops to even find this little fucking town?
This is a good one despite its reputation (25% on the ol' tomatometer). The musical score actually reminded me a bit of Danny Elfman and the obsessive nature, and pure artistry, of Vincent was decidedly Burton-esque. Hell, the town was even called Ambrose, clearly after Ambrose Bierce who disappeared without a trace as well. Although, Mr. Bierce's disappearence came nearly a century earlier. Alot of this seems smarter than a picture like this should be is all I'm sayin. Shit, this picture was nominated for 3 golden raspberry awards (supporting actress - Hilton, worst picture, and worst remake). Hilton won for worst supporting actress. That is fucking bullshit man. Just proves that those awards are just a god damned popularity contest. Elisha Cuthbert should have won for "best tits we didn't get to see". Come to think of it, we didn't see any in this picture. Still, I stand by it. You should too (or sit in front of it so you have a better view).