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HOUSE OF WAX

SYNOPSIS:
En route to a big football game in Baton Rouge, two carloads of college students are forced to take a detour into the woods. When car trouble strikes they seek help in the isolated town of Ambrose, where the main attraction is Trudy’s House of Wax. After an unsettling encounter with a local hillbilly truckdriver, garage mechanic Bo (Brian Van Holt) appears. It quickly becomes apparent that he and disfigured brother Vincent (Brian Van Holt) are the town’s only “living” residents and they plan to add newcomers Paige (Paris Hilton), Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and her twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray) to their gallery of lifelike sculptures.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Following House On Haunted Hill and Thir13en Ghosts, Dark Castle Entertainment supremos Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis have simply plucked the title and most basic premise of an old horror favourite and stitched on a new story. House of Wax, 2005-style, is one of those lazy horror movies relying on people making the worst possible decision at any given moment to advance plot and generate suspense. The college kids here have been forced to camp out in spooky woods where a vile stench wafts through and a hillbilly truck driver dumps roadkill into a giant pit. 

One would imagine the safest course of action is to hotfoot it immediately, but this is no such place for level-headed thinking and they duly proceed to the nearby town where grisly deaths for most are doled out at scriptwriter’s convenience. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (unsurprisingly, a rock video maker debuting in features) spends much time attempting to establish his characters, but all that emerges is how lame-brained these kids are. 

Until we arrive at the spectacular finale the only interest for most viewers will be in guessing who dies next and how long Paris Hilton can survive in conditions far more grueling than her rural assignment in The Simple Life on TV. It is giving away nothing to say she does meet the destiny all subsidiary horror characters must and it also says something about popular culture to report that her demise was met with an extremely enthusiastic response from the audience at the preview I attended. 

Plot-wise, this film more closely resembles The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) than it’s nominal predecessor, so perhaps her casting is more appropriate than we might have imagined. In any case, she delivers an acceptable performance in an ensemble that is as undistinguished as the screenplay. The saving “grace” here is the work of Australian production designer Graham “Grace” Walker. The town of Ambrose is a genuinely eerie place, with a cinema still showing Whatever Happened To Baby Jane (1962) and the House of Wax itself looming on the landscape with all the cinematic presence of a Bates Motel. 

It’s just a shame that more interesting characters were not trapped in this limbo of the lost. The plodding and predictable first two-thirds has nothing we haven’t seen too many times already, though this House of Wax climaxes in truly impressive style as things hot up and the house melts down. The final wash-up here is an adequate at best retake that will not quickly erase the memory of Vincent Price.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

HOUSE OF WAX (MA15+)
(Aus/US, 2005)

CAST: Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams, Robert Ri'chard

PRODUCER: L. Levin, Susan Levin, Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis

DIRECTOR: Jaume Collet-Serra

SCRIPT: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes (story by Charles Belden)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen F. Windon

EDITOR: Joel Negron

MUSIC: John Ottman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Graham 'Grace' Walker

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 14, 2005

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: December 8, 2005







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