House of Wax (2005)

Review

House of Wax

At last count, summer 2005 has approximately 2,005 remakes on the slate, from a re-imagined Bewitched to a rejuvenated War of the Worlds. The parade of photocopies was supposed to begin this week with House of Wax, a marketable, MTV-friendly version of the original and far superior 1953 version, which starred Vincent Price.

But can you technically call this new House a remake? Helmed with vague sensibilities by music video director Jaume Serra, this vacant lot bears absolutely no resemblance to its predecessor, save for the fact that they both feature suspicious wax museums. That’s like saying Titanic is a remake of The Poseidon Adventure because they both take place on capsized luxury liners.

Serra’s House owes more to the recent glut of generic horror toss offs that includes Saw, Wrong Turn, and Jeepers Creepers. There isn’t an original bone in its wax-covered corpse of a body. Does this set-up sound familiar? Handsome but rebellious teens try a detour on their way to a college football game. They camp out halfway to the stadium, wake up to car trouble, and get roadside assistance from a nearby menacing hillbilly. He carts two of the kids to a deserted town, where twin brothers Bo and Vincent – an homage to Price that merely reminds us how much we miss the horror master – have turned an entire community into a life-sized town of wax.

Serra earns the film’s hard R rating by turning House of Wax into a torture chamber. Sadism is the only thing House has going for it. The unsuspecting teens that venture into the town meet some the most gruesome deaths you’ll see on screen. Carly (Elisha Cuthbert, sporting Jessica Biel’s wife-beater tee from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) has her lips superglued together to prevent her from screaming for help. Wade (Jared Padalecki), while shackled to a surgical table, gets his facial hair torn off. Are you sensing a trend?

Between the killings, House is dead boring. Serra drags out his feature film debut by building phony tension en route to the next cheap jolts. He accompanies his ‘scares’ with the requisite violin shriek from stage left, because he knows in the back of his mind that his visuals alone aren’t going to goose you out of your seat.

Caricatures fill out the remaining cast. Chad Michael Murray shrugs off the brooding ex-con role, while Padalecki strikes the right chords as the sensitive boyfriend with the shaggy haircut and kind eyes. There’s no need for either Robert Ri’chard or Jon Abrahams, though the latter plays the trademark geek with a video camera that he consistently trains on the girls’ assorted curves. There’s a Paris Hilton joke somewhere in there, I’m sure of it.

Ah yes. Paris Hilton. House may attract curious onlookers who want to see tabloid fodder on screen in her first (major) feature role. The jury is still out on the extent of the socialite’s acting. Her character, Paige, is a party girl who alternately flirts, mopes, pretends to give road head to her boyfriend, performs a provocative strip tease, and screams for her life. Oddly enough, the killer pauses to videotape the blonde’s lifeless, horribly scarred corpse after he rams a spear through her skull. Poor Paris. Does every guy feel the need to videotape her? I’m happy to report that Hilton did get a warm smattering of applause and several shouts of approval from my preview audience. Just don’t tell her they came the minute she bit the dust.

The DVD (underrated in this editor’s opinion) adds an incomprehensible mini-commentary track, gag reel, and several documentaries about the making of a truly impressive entire-town set and the creepy wax figures.

Wax, silicone… whatever.