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Waxwork




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: January 6, 2001

Released by: Image Entertainment | Lorimar
Release date: 1989
MSRP: $??.?? (OOP)
NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1



The time has come to add yet another title to our growing laserdisc reviews list. We try to support the great laserdisc format by occasionally reviewing titles that are either A) not available on DVD, or B) the LD is superior to the DVD in terms of extras and/or a/v quality. This time around it's the classic 80's movie Waxwork, which is not available on DVD. Not only is the movie from the 80's, so is the actual laserdisc. What that boils down to is the quality doesn't really live up to today's standards. But hey, as of right now if you want to own Waxwork it's going to be on either VHS or laserdisc. I, for one, would rather have it on a disc format that's not going to wear down over multiple viewings like VHS does.

Unfortunately, Vestron Video, the company that created Waxwork, has gone out of business. I believe the rights for this particular now belong to either MGM or Artisan, but I'm still trying to confirm that. Once I do, I hope to get a petition going so we can let the appropriate studio know that we want this on DVD! In the mean time, lets take a look at the next best thing - the Waxwork laserdisc.

The Story

inline Image Mark Loftmore (Zach Galligan) is your every day college student, with the exception being that he's rich, or at least his snobby mother is. Two of Mark's friends - China (Michelle Johnson) and Sarah (Deborah Foreman) - are invited to attend the midnight premiere of a waxwork that just opened. China and Sarah are a bit perplexed by the waxwork, which seems to have appeared out of nowhere and has been placed in very bad location - right in the middle of the suburbs. Still, China seems to have the hots for the owner of the waxwork, Mr. Lincoln (David Warner), so she convinces Sarah into going.

inline Image China and Sarah were told to bring no more than six people total to the premiere, so they invite Mark and three other friends - Tony (Dana Ashbrook), James (Eric Brown) and Gemma (Clare Carey). Midnight comes and the group heads over to the waxwork, which they find to be quite scary looking late at night. James and Gemma chicken out and head home; the rest of the group continues on. They're greeted by a midget butler who seats them into a waiting room. After a few minutes the entrance to the waxwork mysteriously opens on its own and they make their way in.

inline Image Inside the waxwork they break up and go about looking at the exhibits. The exhibits, which are frighteningly realistic, are all morbid - each one dealing with some kind of death or hideous monster. Tony is the first one to make the mistake of entering one of the roped off exhibits, which instantly transports him into the actual environment of the exhibit - a werewolf inside of a cabin. China is next, transporting to a castle of vampires. The wax monsters are no longer wax for Tony and China - they're real. When Mark and Sarah realize their friends are missing, they head home thinking their friends ditched them.

inline Image When Tony and China don't show up at school the next day, Mark quickly realizes something is wrong. He goes to the police, who prove to be no help. Then he takes Sarah to see Sir. Wilfred (Patrick Macnee), a friend of his late grandfather. They tell him their story of the waxwork and its owner, Mr. Lincoln. Sir. Wilfred tells them that Mr. Lincoln is a disciple of Satan, trying to resurrect eighteen of the most evil beings to ever to walk the earth. By recreating a waxwork exhibit for each evil person and the environment they lived in, and then feeding them the soul of a living human, Mr. Lincoln can bring them back to life once all eighteen are complete. Mark and Sarah don't have much time - only two more exhibits need souls. They must burn the waxwork before Mr. Lincoln succeeds with his plans. But when they return, burning it proves to be more than difficult when each of them is thrown into an exhibit, one full of zombies, the other full of torturers. Can they escape the exhibits? Or are they destined to be the two that complete the cycle?

inline Image I love the movie Waxwork and it's not one that I just file into the "guilty pleasure" category. I think its a great movie in its own right. It certainly has its share of problems, which I'll discuss, but the good definitely outweighs the bad here. Certainly the highlight is when the various characters get transported into the waxwork environments. In these environments you'll witness a variety of horror delights - werewolves, mummies, the living dead, vampires and more. While each sequence only last a matter of 5 minutes or so, they're quick and to the point. No real story to deal with, just monsters, killings and gore!

inline Image Speaking of gore, I have to say that given the large variety of monsters and the fact that this was a low budget movie, I was really impressed with the special effects. I've read some people complaining about them, but I can't figure out why. They look great to me. Sure, some of the monsters are obviously just rubber masks, but there's some good gore and makeup effects. This laserdisc is presented unrated and "uncensored", so you do get to see some additional gore (NOTE: There's also an unrated VHS, as well as an R rated VHS). My only complaint with "effects" is in the waxwork museum itself - those "frighteningly realistic" waxwork figures are very obviously real human actors simply trying to hold a pose. The fact you can SEE them moving when they aren't supposed to be kinda proves it...

inline Image Outside of the waxwork environments is when the movie strays into bad territory. You have to deal with this boring, annoying and just plain stupid plot that tries to explain why the waxwork is the way it is. It's the typical good versus evil battle where the end of the world is at stake. I really wish some movies would either not bother with a plot, or try to come up with something decent. It doesn't have to be great, just decent. I would've much preferred to see more time spent in the waxwork environments, then coming up with a small story to explain it all. The ending isn't too hot either. It definitely has a rushed feel to it to try and wraps things up too quickly. At least it leads into a sequel that I did enjoy - Waxwork II: Lost in Time.

inline Image If you haven't seen Waxwork definitely give it a try. I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it. I really do enjoy the waxworks coming to life idea. Plus the movie pays homage to so many classic horror movies and directors. In the rolling credits you'll see:
Quote:

Dedicated to:

Hammer, Argento, Romero, Dante, Landis, Spielberg, Wells, Carpenter, Mum and Dad. And Many More...
The living dead waxwork environment is my favorite - it's even filmed in black and white. What better way to pay homage to George Romero's classic, Night of the Living Dead?

Image Quality

inline Image Waxwork is presented a full frame 1.33:1 transfer. Transfer quality is definitely lacking, resulting in an image quality that I'd rate only slightly above VHS. The laserdisc may be slightly higher in resolution, and certainly has the benefit of not wearing down as long as you store it properly. The entire image suffers from being too bright, including many of the darker scenes. It's soft and lacking in detail, and there's consistently light grain. There is some occasional video noise that appears, especially on side two. Colors look pretty good overall, but are obviously affected by the other problems I've mentioned. A laserdisc release from 1989, what can you expect? Sadly, this is currently the best you're going to do in terms of Waxwork on a home video format. I rate the laserdisc a D, whereas I'd rate the VHS D-.

Sound

The Waxwork laserdisc has Dolby 2.0 Surround sound that's much better than the video. Only some light usage of surrounds, but there's some nice separation on the fronts. The sound is crisp and distortion free; dialogue was clearly audible at all times.

Supplemental Material

No supplements.

Final Thoughts

Great horror movies that pays homages to many directors and their movies. Let me forewarn you that the plot isn't all that great. What is great are the waxwork environment sequences, the monsters in them and the makeup/gore effects. The video quality on this laserdisc is horrible, though it is slightly superior to that of the VHS, plus it has the advantage of being an optical disc that won't wear after repeat viewings. Sound is great. No supplements are included on this laserdisc.

Obviously this needs to be remastered and released onto DVD. I'd love to see a director's commentary too! Once I track down who has the rights for this one I'll be sure to post up a petition link, plus some contact information for the studio. In the mean time, track down the laserdisc or VHS and enjoy Waxwork!

Rating

Movie B
Image Quality D
Sound A-
Supplements N/A

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 37 minutes
  • Color
  • Not Rated (Uncensored Version)
  • 1 Disc, CLV
  • 5 Chapter Stops
  • Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Supplements
  • N/A
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