A remake in name only, House of Wax bares little resemblance to the 1953 Vincent Price thriller. Using a mind-bending premise and an emerging technology known as "3-D", Price's version became an instant classic. Trading mystique for mutilation, the current version serves up a healthy dose of brutal gore that is surprisingly entertaining and frighteningly good.
What the viewer learns from the opening prologue, set in 1974, is that a wax sculptor and a deranged doctor raised two young toddlers. They were routinely abused and often strapped into harnessing highchairs whenever they misbehaved. From there we can imagine how dysfunctional the brothers would later become and how they wouldn't be ideal hosts when six young travelers show up in their town 30 years later.
The travelers include Carly (Elisha Cuthbert), the attractive career-driven woman who's looking to take an internship in New York at a popular fashion magazine against the wishes of her southern boyfriend, Wade (Jared Padalecki) who is being dragged along for the ride. Carly's best friend Paige (Paris Hilton) is the sexually driven one in the group, and her boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri'chard) doesn't seem to mind. The wildcard in the pack is Nick (Chad Michael Murray), Carly's brother who may or may not fit his devious label and rebellious persona. He was just bailed out of jail by his pal Dalton (Jon Abrahams), and the two decided to invite themselves on the trip
While driving to a football game, a detour sends them down an unfamiliar road; they get lost and as a result decide to camp out for the night. When the gang awakens the next morning, they find the fan belt in one of the cars slashed to pieces and they head into what appears to be an abandoned town to seek out an auto-repair shop. What they find is an old church and a wax museum that is just too irresistible to pass by.
But their fates are sealed with the breaking of the cardinal rule of horror: "I'll go this way, you go that way." And so the slaughtering begins as the characters climb stairs and traverse catacombs, wandering into places they shouldn't be in, with each gruesome killing more graphic than the previous.
Cuthbert and Murray are the primary characters and both do as well as could be expected given the one-dimensional nature of their characters. They both provide the necessary enthusiasm while making sure they never try too hard. As for the million dollar question: Paris Hilton, huh? Well, she's not a liability to Wax, as her role is a limited one. The filmmakers were wise to keep Hilton away for most of the movie, as the pop culture starlet is not an actress and only emulates her own personality in the film.
First-time director Jaume Serra combines some Hitchcock-like camera work, with extended shots of the disturbing wax statues to create a vibe that is down right creepy. Dimly lit sets and close-ups are also employed and add to the films tense and morbid tone.
House of Wax is Dark Horse Entertainment's second adaptation of a Vincent Price classic. In 1999 they remade House on Haunted Hill with moderate success. Horror aficionados might find it somewhat insulting to steal the titles of such classics and reinvent a more modern version of the original premise. However, anyone who enjoys being scared will like their latest "gorror" film. With slasher style villains, wince-inducing graphic violence and a clever plot twist, House of Wax distinguishes itself as one of the better scary movies in recent years.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun