Besides the vats of molten wax, the only thing that links 1953’s House of Wax with this Jaume Serra update is a character named Vincent, a Trent Reznor-esque hick who—minor spoilers herein—runs Trudy’s House of Wax with his brother Bo in the abandoned town of Ambrose. There’s a book to be written about why the lower classes have become the boogeymen du jours of modern horror films, but here we are again: A bunch of teenagers on their way to some unspecified sporting event wind up in Hicksville and must fend for their lives against the Brothers Redneck. Just as Marcus Nispel reworked Tobe Hopper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the MTV generation, Serra similarly tricks-out André de Toth’s 1953 classic (it’s doubtful he’s seen Michael Curtiz’s 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum), except the film more accurately brings to mind the groove of David Schmoeller’s underrated 1979 chiller Tourist Trap, in which a bunch of teenagers stumble upon a mannequin museum operated by two brothers, one a mysteriously-masked freakazoid. Of course, because Tourist Trap itself owed plenty to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of Wax, it goes to show how incestuous modern-day horror films have become; with all the inbreeding that ostensibly goes on in these necks of the woods, it’s almost fitting that the films themselves look so much alike. Though not as exciting as Rob Schmidt’s unapologetically vapid Wrong Turn, House of Wax has its share of strong visual ideas and moments: Serra’s camera often lingers on his character’s greasy faces in claustrophobic close-up, summoning a creepy contrast between the real and waxen bodies of the film; and inside a movie house that plays the plastic-fantastic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the filmmakers encourage audiences to critique their roles as passive spectators. None of it is very fleshed-out, but it really does seem as if Serra had a lot of fun making this thing, from the ridiculous justification for the story’s horrors to the gorgeous spectacle of melting wax that closes the film (the climax evokes a reverse entry into a mother’s womb). And as a plastic blonde with a taste for brown sugar, Paris Hilton is never cast in wax but she does get to relive moments from her infamous porno. Her cellphone doesn’t work this time, but she does get impaled, and when she does, audiences may reply with a resounding—wait for it—“that’s hot.”
- Jaume Collet-Serra
- Chad Hayes
- Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams, Robert Ri'chard, Dragicia Debert, Damon Herriman, Andy Anderson
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