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"House of Wax" Movie Review

2005 Remake Doesn't Hold a Candle to the Original

By

House of Wax Elisha Cuthbert

Elisha Cuthbert in "House of Wax"

© Warner Bros. Pictures

Let’s see. Attractive 20-somethings make bad decisions, wear minimal clothing, have sex at the most inappropriate times, check out creepy buildings they have no business being anywhere near, and fail to flee (or even call 911) when they know a killer wants them dead. Yep, “House of Wax” officially qualifies as a by-the-book teen horror film. There’s nothing new to see here so can we all just move along please?

I’m so fed up with reading about all the remakes in the works. Now Michael Bay (the man who was behind the remakes of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Amityville Horror”) says he’s going to remake “The Birds!” Someone stop him before the world as we know it comes to a grinding halt. Enough is enough is enough.

Unfortunately, “House of Wax” does nothing to soothe my ruffled ‘stop the remake insanity’ feathers. In this 2005 version of the classic horror film, our group of happy campers sets off for a college football game. Because they’re young, horny, and in a scary movie, they decide to pull off the road and camp out in the middle of nowhere. They’re traveling in nice looking cars wearing fashionable clothing, and they look like they’re not exactly starving, yet they can’t afford to rent a hotel room for the night? Their impending deaths are caused by their lack of planning and by pure stupidity. They deserve to die (the characters in the movie, not the actors – I’m not that mean).

Waking up late the next morning, they get all panicky about missing the big game (we know all along the game’s just a ruse - this isn’t “House of Pigskin”). Despite their rush to get to the game, Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and Paige (Paris Hilton) smell something worse than just morning breath and decide to check it out. Chasing down the source of a foul odor isn’t usually a good idea and in this case it’s definitely the wrong thing to do. They stumble upon the source of the smell - a roadkill pit - and just their luck, the roadkill truck driver pulls up right when Carly’s cutie pie boyfriend, Wade (Jared Padalecki), announces his fan belt’s broken. Carly and Wade hitch a ride into the closest town to buy a new part and wind up being trapped in the town from hell. Actually, not hell as this town’s made of wax and if it were actually in hell, it would probably have melted and then there wouldn’t be a movie.

There’s way too much silly dialogue, too many throw-away, clichéd characters, and bad acting by Paris Hilton before we get to anything good. It takes too long to get to the killings in “House of Wax” but once it does, the movie actually becomes a little fun. After a very ho-hum start and some mind-numbingly boring scenes leading up to Carly and Wade’s journey into town, first-time director Jaume Serra kicks the movie up a few notches by pouring on the blood, guts, gore, and wax.

Like most throw-away horror flicks, it doesn’t matter who the bad guy is or why he likes to brutally butcher strangers. All that really matters is that each of the deaths is unique and violent, and “House of Wax” succeeds in giving each victim a pretty spectacular death scene. Hilton’s death in particular seemed to please the audience. No other death scene in the movie elicited a round of applause from the preview audience like Paris’ onscreen death managed to do. Whether they were cheering for the brutality of the act or the fact they wouldn’t have to watch Paris try to act anymore will have to remain a mystery.

Speaking of Ms. Hilton, the script called for her to be shown being videotaped almost constantly. Once would have been fine. I get the joke, move on. But no, the Hilton videotape connection is beat to death and then picked up and beat again. She also does a strip tease that is just that: a tease. You hire Paris Hilton, write a strip tease scene, and then don’t show anything. That’s almost illegal in this sort of film.

As far as the acting goes, Cuthbert’s fine but forgettable. Padalecki seems to really embody his role as the good-looking supportive boyfriend. Jon Abrahams as comic relief, Robert Ri’chard as Paris’ rapping boy-toy, and Chad Michael Murray as Cuthbert’s brooding delinquent brother are pretty much interchangeable with the supporting players from any other film of this genre. Other than Murray, they really don’t have much to do. The problem I had with Murray is that I just didn’t buy his tough guy posturing. It seemed too much like an act and not organic to the character.

“House of Wax” has a few really nifty effects, including the final battle between the few surviving kids and the wax-obsessed madman. And you’ve got to give the filmmakers credit for actually showing the gore instead of cutting away right before or as the killings are taking place. But as gory as it is, “House of Wax” isn't really all that scary. The frights are few and far between and in order to get to the scary scenes, you have to wade through a bunch of boring filler.

GRADE: C+

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