House of Wax

When I saw the previews for House of Wax I was amazed by how awful it looked: clichéd, vapid, ugly and dull, so when I saw it was on demand this month and free, I said to my kids, "Ooh let's watch it and see just how bad it is!" Turns out it was both better and worse than I thought it would be with some very good suspenseful scenes and some that were just so downright stupid we couldn't stop laughing.

Although this film is billed as a remake it doesn't have much in common with the original (itself a remake of a 1933 film called Mystery of the Wax Museum), which was released in 1953. Instead of Vincent Price we get Paris Hilton. Instead of 3-D special effects we have a pit of rotting road kill. The original plot featured a famed wax sculptor who was hideously scarred when his partner burned down the wax museum, leaving him to die in the flames, who returns to get revenge and repopulate his museum with figures that are not entirely made of wax. This new version features some teenagers trying to get to the big game who stop to make out in the woods and end up in terrible trouble. I know, it's hard to believe that there could be a movie out there where romantically minded kids encounter a mystery and danger when they are just minding their own business, but shockingly that is exactly what happens.

The friends are interrupted in the woods by the appearance of a truck, shining its lights into their eyes and annoying them. When the driver won't turn the lights off or show himself, Nick, the angry and troubled member of this party, throws a bottle and breaks one of the headlights. The truck leaves but in the morning they find that someone has cut the belt in one of their cars, so they split up (I guess their mommas never taught them that this is the worst. idea. ever.) with one group going on to the game and Carly and her boyfriend Wade hitching a ride with a creepy stranger with a yen for road kill. They finally come to their senses and get out of the truck, walking to a town that is nearly deserted to find that the entire population of the village is attending a funeral. While they wait for the owner of the gas station to come out of the church and get them the belt, they explore the area, finding something billed as the House of Wax, a museum of sorts where everything, even the floor, is made of wax. Of course Wade starts poking around the next thing you know all hell breaks loose and bloodshed and Unnatural Things Done With Wax commence.

Now if you are willing to ignore pesky little things like the laws of physics, you can enjoy most of this film. One of the things that works really well is the nightmarish quality of some of the scenes, characters are unable to run because their feet are sinking into melting wax, a killer stabs his victim's feet from underneath while she tries to escape on a mesh catwalk, an idiot tries to help his friend who has been coated in wax, only to panic when the friend's skin comes off along with the wax.

Off course the plot is hackneyed and you can easily predict who will die (for instance when Paris Hilton and Robert Richard start messing around you know they are going to get murdered for the double sin of making out in the woods and having an interracial relationship) but there are some excellent performances, notably from Elisha Cuthbert as Carly Jones and Chad Michael Murray as her twin brother Nick. Best of all the girls in this film are not dolts who stand around and whimper while mayhem rules around them, Carly is particular is tough, smart and determined to escape from the madmen who inhabit the House of Wax.

The good outweighs the bad in this offering and so long as you can stand the overdone and overwrought last fifteen minutes or so, this one is worth watching.

This week's one sentence review comes from Paul Muolo, who comments on the film The Departed. He says, "Great movie; Leo was terrific and I'm not a big fan of his… Marky Mark was really good too!" Have you got a one-sentence review you’d like to submit to Quality Time? Send it in to me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com, and I'll run the best ones. You may focus on just about anything that fits a family entertainment format; games, movies, books, music - the sky is the limit, or is it? Want to review the status of poor ex-planet Pluto? Go right ahead.