In his non-fiction tome “Danse Macabre” Stephen King writes, “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I will go for the gross-out.” The difference between King and “House of Wax” writers Chad and Carey Hayes is that they don’t even try to terrify or horrify.
“House of Wax” (which, once again teams up “Thir13een Ghosts” co-producers Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis) opens with a scene of child abuse, causing me to wonder after last month’s “Amityville Horror” remake if this is the only way Hollywood can now think of to disturb its audience. No matter; it’s only one scene and you just know it’s laying pipe (not to stars Paris Hilton or Elisha Cuthbert, you sickos) for future reference.
The story has a group of teens, who are out partying, fighting for their lives when they encounter a madman. That’s how much thought was put into this thing. It tries hard to evoke 2003 remake tour-de-force “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but fails miserably. All the parts are here, though: the creepy, dilapidated house, animal carcasses, Bubbahs who are lacking most of their teeth, and a brunette (Cuthbert) in a tank top.
At the same time, it evokes “Scream”-style silliness, although this film takes itself seriously. Characters are forever running upstairs when they should be running down, and young, nubile, mostly naked women leave their woodland pitched tents in the middle of the night to investigate strange sounds. Does this even work in real life? So many horror films utilize this crap, that I’m beginning to believe it. I’ll let you know after I conduct a few field studies.
The script even acknowledges its prolific use of clichés, by giving its characters lines like these:
Interchangable hot, dim-witted chica: “Wade, I heard something.”
Wade: “It’s probably a serial killer.” Hello! Ya think?!?
And when Elisha’s character states that she smells that horribly rancid odor coming from the woods again and wants to check it out, even Paris is smart enough to ask “Why?” Of course they go anyway. Having the characters question their actions and then go ahead and do the stupid move anyway, isn’t effective at quelling our own concerns about why a character is yet again behaving in a way that no sane person would. Instead, these moments serve as constant reminders that the script is just plain lazy.
I did say that “House of Wax” goes straight for the gross-out though and, to be fair, it does this very well. Buckets of blood pour from the screen, and more than one body part goes flying. If this is your thing, than “House” delivers. However, if you’re into plot, character development, atmosphere or tension, then stay away. “House of Wax” isn’t as artful as a true wax sculpture is; rather, it’s paint-by-numbers movie making at its worst: It truly wants its audience to be as dumb as the film, itself, actually is.
Pros: 20 Minutes inside the titular House is pretty damn cool…
Cons: …but it comes so late in the film that you’ll have long stopped caring. And it just gets stupid again after that anyway.
Review Rating: 1 out of 5 electric bills for an entire town must be pretty damned crippling.
“House of Wax” (2005)
105 Minutes; USA
Rated R for horror violence, some sexual content and language.
Elisha Cuthbert (Carly Jones)
Chad Michael Murray (Nick Jones)
Brian Van Holt (Bo)
Paris Hilton (Paige Edwards)
Jared Padalecki (Wade)
Jon Abrahams (Dalton Chapman)
Directed by: Jaume Serra
Written by: Chad and Carey Hayes, based on a story by Charles Belden
Viewing Format: Theatrical Release.
(Originally published on HorrorWatch)