House of Wax (2005)
The remake of the 1953 Vincent Price 3-D horror classic House of Wax gets off to a nicely weird start ("remake" meaning there's wax and killing, and that's about it). It's 1974, and amid gooey close-ups of boiling paraffin, a bickering couple straps a howling toddler into a high-chair. It's all shot in close-up so we never see a human face and the whole thing has this vague It's Alive vibe that's kind of funny and trashy and old-school. So imagine one's disappointment when we suddenly flash-forward three decades and there's angst-rock blaring on the soundtrack as we follow six surly, disposable teens (three of them played by Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray and, dear Lord, Paris Hilton) on a road trip. Sure enough, they take a shortcut, have car trouble, get a ride from a tooth-challenged hick and end up in a town so remote it doesn't even show up on GPS (!), and
you can guess what happens next. Sadly, director Jaume Serra has taken the Gothic premise of a madman casting his living victims in wax and no doubt at the behest of copycat-hungry producers turned House of Wax into yet another teens-versus-hillbillies slasher flick. (Seriously: nigh-invincible, paramilitary-trained, slasher-hillbilly wax artistes? Is there a trade school for that?) But all that aside, the film actually has a lot going for it, if only by comparison to other recent entries in the 21st-Century-Classic-Horror-Remake subgenre. It takes its sweet time setting up the situation. The gore is fairly abundant and clever. The final showdown set in a literally melting hellscape is so outrageously over-the-top that it's kind of freaky. The actors playing hillbillies (Brian Van Holt and Damon Herriman) have a nasty energy. And Cuthbert, primed after years of being tied up and/or menaced by cougars on "24," takes gratuitous abuse like a champ. (And since you asked: Hilton is sparingly used, plays her vacuous self, gets chased while wearing designer lingerie, and is, in fact, violated on videotape though not in the way you'd expect.) Warner Home Video presents House of Wax in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (in English, French, and Spanish, all with optional subtitles). Supplements include "B-Roll and Bloopers Video Cast Commentary" with Cuthbert, Hilton, and others (26 min.), the featurettes "Wax On: The Design of House of Wax" (7 min.) and "House Built on Wax: The Visual FX of House of Wax" (10 min.), a gag reel (3 min.), an alternate opening sequence (1 min.), "From Location: Joel Silver Reveals House of Wax" (1 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.