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Summer of ’88: Waxwork

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Summer of ‘88: Waxwork

The Cabin in the Woods ends with a deliriously apocalyptic Grand Guignol in which just about every ghoulie that’s ever appeared in a horror movie is released from a subterranean prison to wreak bloody mayhem on their captors. But Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard were hardly the first to conceive of a finale of that kind, and on that kind of massive scale. The 1988 horror yarn Waxwork ends with a band of hunters—including Valley Girl’s Deborah Foreman and Gremlins star Zach Galligan—facing off against a slew of vampires, werewolves, mummies, zombies, even an Audrey II-like man-eating plant in a wax museum-set battle royale over the fate of mankind. Notwithstanding a very-‘80s proliferation of cheesy one-liners before the heroes dispatch the various villains, this finale exudes a similar no-holds-barred spirit that the climax of The Cabin in the Woods would tap into 23 years later, albeit with a bigger budget and even less abandon.

For me, The Cabin in the Woods was condescending in its deconstruction of horror conventions, wrapped in a smart-ass concept—a government agency presiding over the fates of a bunch of innocent cabin-dwellers, not unlike filmmakers trying to come up with an audience-savvy product—that eventually turned its contempt toward the audience, supposedly for uncritically eating up this crap without desiring more from their entertainment. Waxwork isn’t nearly as clever, to be sure, and its execution is at times clumsy, especially with its wobbly sorta-campy tone. (The broad caricatures and cheesy acting in the film’s first 15 minutes alone are cringe-inducing.) But for all its shakiness and obvious low budget, Anthony Hickox’s film does at least display a sincere love for the horror classics to which it pays tribute, even going so far as to shoot a Night of the Living Dead-inspired sequence in black and white to match its source material. In other words, Waxwork is thankfully free of Whedon and Goddard’s smugness.

That isn’t to suggest that Hickox doesn’t have a vision of his own beyond the cinephile shout-outs. The film’s premise is indebted to some degree to films like André de Toth’s 1953 3D classic House of Wax, which also basically revolved around lifelike wax figures that were more real than one could possibly imagine. But Waxwork is certainly no period piece. Just about everything in its opening scenes screams “I love the ‘80s!”—from the synthesizer-laden score to the clothing and hairstyles to the characterizations themselves. Galligan’s Mark, for instance, is a wealthy college-student slacker who seems to have no problem handing a homework assignment to his maid, who barely speaks English, to write for him—and given his sense of lazy entitlement, one could possibly see him going the way of Patrick Bateman in the future.

Still, once Mark and his band of privileged, self-absorbed preppies enter the wax museum owned by David Warner’s unnamed museum owner, they find themselves strangely enraptured by wax figures from different worlds and older eras—to the point that, once the rope stand that separates spectators from the displays spontaneously drops to the floor, the characters walk onto the displays and literally enter these locales. This is, of course, the devious way the museum owner entraps his victims: killing them in these worlds and thereby encasing them in wax forever. “Waxworks are out of date; this is the video age,” says one character—and Waxwork is, in essence, a horror comedy about characters who find their distance from images of the past dangerously, even fatally, bridged. This clash between old and new is reflected in more subtle ways than just its main concept. There’s also the casting of British acting veterans Warner, John Rhys-Davies, and Patrick Macnee alongside younger Americans like Galligan, Foreman, and a pre-Twin Peaks Dana Ashbrook—and the contrast between the experience of the British actors and the (deliberate?) broad awkwardness of the youngsters couldn’t be more evident. But perhaps the most interesting manifestation of this clash lies in Roger Bellon’s music score, which alternates between synthesizer-led cues in the present-day “reality” scenes and more classical-sounding orchestral ones in the wax-museum scenes (Bellon even throws in explicit references to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and the “interrupted intermezzo” of Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra for good measure).

Alas, this intriguing self-aware thematic thread ends up not being explored in much depth as its anthology-like structure eventually leads into a fairly predictable end-of-the-world threat. Waxwork is certainly no hidden horror gem, but its flashes of wit and genuine enthusiasm for the horror genre are enough to make it a reasonably enjoyable time—especially after an ostensible tribute as insufferably clever as The Cabin in the Woods.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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