“House of Wax” is the latest in a line of name-only remakes from the Dark Castle production house, following in the illustrious footsteps of “The House on Haunted Hill” and “Thirteen Ghosts”. As with its predecessors, the film retains only the basic premise of the 1950s original, choosing instead to mould its narrative around the usual bunch of overage designer teens. This approach, whilst having provided the studio reasonable financial returns, has not exactly endeared it to serious horror fans, and so their annual genre releases, “House of Wax” most definitely included, are not generally awaited with bated breath. Worse still, any hopes that the film may buck the depressingly stagnant trend of recent genre entries are not helped by the presence of music video / TV commercials director Jaume Collet-Sera, or a cast of disposable fashion victims which happens to include the loathsome and blissfully talent-free Paris Hilton.
The film starts in much the same way as a hundred others, with a group of college teens heading off on a road trip, and unwisely deciding to take a cross-country shortcut. Surprising no-one, they soon end up with car trouble, and fall foul of the usual inbred, yet strangely inventive psychotics which screenwriters seem to think lurk in every turn off the beaten track. The marginal twist on the formula in “House of Wax” is that the teens encounter a maniac who likes making real life wax statues of the unfortunate travellers he somehow manages to secret away to his surprisingly well-equipped lair, which is, in a stunning act of fiercely intellectual irony, made of actual wax.
This really is all that the plot has to offer, and there is absolutely no attempt to spice up the standard formula in any fashion whatsoever. This in itself is of course a dispiriting side note, rather than an actual criticism, as “House of Wax” is no guiltier of unoriginality than the vast majority of recent genre releases. What really sticks in the craw however is the way the film makes no attempt to excel in any way, and seems to almost deliberately avoid pushing the envelope or stray from its by-the-numbers approach in every aspect of production.
The film has almost nothing of everything — no gore, no nudity, no scares, and thus, no point. Director Collet-Sera has an almost uncanny ability of ruining every potential set up, either with lame wisecracks (which take up half the film), or blasts of incessantly loud, radio friendly music (which takes up the other half). For a supposed genre film, he seems unconcerned with including horror of any kind, be it visceral or psychological, and as a result it is very hard to imagine any viewers of any age or disposition feeling anything other than a growing anger at the realisation that this is a film which stubbornly and consistently refuses to deliver on any level other than lame, pseudo-cool homo-erotic banter.
Instead, “House of Wax” resembles a series of unimaginative music clips, as the cast mug and grimace whilst modelling a series of colourful outfits which just scream ‘please kill me’. Alas, these much desired deaths are few and far between, and do not even come close to providing the cathartic blood letting demanded by the viewer’s glum frustration at being tricked into paying to see such trash.
Collet-Sera’s inexplicable, yet unflagging dedication to dullness is taken to its very limit by the fact that the film lasts an incredible and mind-boggling 113 minutes. There is no possible justification for a film with so little to show or tell to last nearly two hours, though at least the tortured viewer will have plenty of time to ponder this mystery. Since the film’s ‘money shots’ have already been quite neatly edited together into a less than enticing trailer shown for free, the sad fact is that most viewers will already have seen all that is worth seeing.
In the name of fairness, it should be noted that the film does have decent production values, and the climatic scene features some reasonably creative effects, though these are somewhat overshadowed by the joy that the viewer will doubtless be feeling knowing that their ordeal is coming to an end. There really is only one reason for watching “House of Wax”, and that is to answer the question ‘does Paris Hilton die?’ In the name of saving viewers from having to put themselves through an excruciatingly painful and dull experience, the answer is ‘yes’.
Jaume Collet-Serra (director) / Chad Hayes (screenplay)
CAST: Elisha Cuthbert …. Carly Jones
Chad Michael Murray …. Nick Jones
Brian Van Holt …. Bo
Paris Hilton …. Paige Edwards
Jared Padalecki …. Wade