(2005, Horror, color)
Would he cover her in wax, or plaster of Paris?
In a nutshell:
Vapid twenty-somethings battle psychotic wax museum curators.
Dead Teenager Movies™ have only one Genre-Sanctioned Plot™ and the Paris Hilton/Elisha Cuthbert vehicle House of Wax does not deviate. We begin, of course, with a Disparate Group of Promiscuous Young People™. While driving through the Uncharted American Wilderness™, they come upon an Unexpected Detour™. Unable to find lodgings, they pull over and make camp for the night.
A pick-up stops by to glare its headlights at them menacingly. The Troubled Loner™ drives it off by smashing its headlight with a beer bottle, much to the chagrin of his twin sister, Virtuous Heroine™ (Elisha Cuthbert). When they wake up the following morning, they find that One of Their Vehicles Has Been Sabotaged™. While relieving themselves in the woods, Virtuous Heroine™ and Air-Headed Slut™ (Paris Hilton) discover a pit filled with rotting deer carcasses. Soon they meet the pit’s Creepy Redneck Caretaker™, who offers to take them to a nearby service station for parts to repair their vehicle.
Virtuous Heroine™ and her Wimpy Boyfriend™ accept the filth-covered yokel’s offer, but find the service station deserted. They stop by a church, interrupting what appears to be a funeral. The Seemingly Helpful Local™ who emerges says he’s the service station proprietor; if they can wait for the end of the funeral, he’ll come out and help them. While they wait, they wander into the local wax museum, an enormous building that is literally made from wax. This is where things start to go Horribly Wrong™.
You see, the House of Wax is inhabited by a Faceless Freak™ who kidnaps unlucky motorists, paralyzes them, and covers them in wax for his menagerie. Wimpy Boyfriend™ is the first to fall. Soon his wax-entombed figure graces a waxified piano tableau. Virtuous Heroine™ realizes something is wrong when he Doesn’t Return™. Seemingly Helpful Local™ confirms her fears when he Kidnaps Her and Duct Tapes Her to a Chair in his Basement™.
Meanwhile, Air-Headed Slut™, her Materialistic Boyfriend™, Troubled Loner™ and his Loser Friend™ have returned when their attempts to attend the Big Game™ in another town are unsuccessful. Troubled Loner™ and Loser Friend™ head into town to look for their missing friends while Air-Headed Slut™ and her Materialistic Boyfriend™ stay behind to make love. Loser Friend™ wanders into the wax museum where he accidentally peels off a large chunk of the paralyzed-but-still-living Wimpy Boyfriend’s™ skin. Faceless Freak™ finds and decapitates him for future waxification. Troubled Loner™ encounters Seemingly Helpful Local™ and has almost gotten shived in the back when Virtuous Heroine™ breaks the superglue on her lips to warn him. Troubled Loner™ escapes Seemingly Helpful Local™ and rescues Virtuous Heroine™. They spend much of the remaining film playing hide and seek with Seemingly Helpful Local™ in the small town, which they discover to be populated solely by posed waxed corpses.
Meanwhile, Air-Headed Slut™ and her Materialistic Boyfriend™ receive a Pre-Coital Visit™ from Faceless Freak™. Materialistic Boyfriend™ lasts only seconds against their assailant, while Air-Headed Slut™ leads him on a chase through a Sinister Warehouse™. This ends when Faceless Freak™ Rams a Metal Bar Through Her Head™.
Meanwhile, Virtuous Heroine™ and Troubled Loner™ have shot Seemingly Helpful Local™ full of crossbow bolts and gone to seek their friends in the wax museum. This is where they meet Faceless Freak™ and the Not-Quite-Dead™ Seemingly Helpful Local™ for the Final Showdown™. The fight moves from room to room and weapon to weapon, but it basically shakes out as Troubled Loner™ getting the snot beat out of him while Virtuous Heroine™ slaughters his assailants from behind. During the altercation, the whole waxen building Bursts Into Flames™ and begins to melt. Our last two survivors tunnel their way through the softened walls to escape.
In the Unsatisfying Denouement That Hints at a Possible Sequel (Depending on Box-Office Performance)™, a friendly ambulance carts our heroes to the next hospital. As the town rolls out of sight, they see the Creepy Redneck Caretaker™ parked by the side of the road. He smiles and waves.
If you’ve seen a Dead Teenager Movie™ at any point previous in your life, then you’ve seen this one. Distill any such film down to its most basic elements and you are left with more or less equal parts titillation, tedium and gore. I don’t particularly mind titillation and gore if it’s in the service of a fascinating story, but Dead Teenager Movies™ are not known for such things. By and large, these misbegotten films give us nothing beyond the basic requirements of the genre. No intelligence on the part of any of the characters, nothing resembling an even remotely plausible story, no redeeming qualities, no entertainment value whatsoever... Unless blood and entrails entertain you, in which case you’d be better served by a trip to the slaughterhouse. All the blood and entrails you can stomach without all that pesky dialog, plus a chance to purchase discount sausages when you’re through.
Matthew Elliott gives us another top-notch commentary, coming down especially hard on Paris Hilton during her scenes. During an early appearance, he calls her “a sleazy [version of] Courtney Love.” Later, during the warehouse chase, he references her recent legal troubles with, “If he catches her, he’ll have to let her go on the advice of her physician.” When Seemingly Helpful Local™ (a.k.a. Bo) stumbles in full of crossbow bolts near the end he says, “I think he completely misses the irony of being a man named Bo who just got shot with an arrow.” When I saw what kind of movie he’d chosen, I was afraid his more understated riffing style would get lost under all the screaming and slashing, but this did not turn out to be the case. He manages to hold his own all the way through, gently poking fun as something new every few seconds. Sadly, this appalling film is still not something I feel comfortable recommending to anyone, regardless of how well-riffed it is.
(2005, Horror, color)