Review Date: July 27, 2003
Released by: Dragon Entertainment
Release date: 7//2003
Region 0, PAL
Full Frame 1.33:1
Is the third time a charm for Waxwork? Will I ever stop reviewing the various Waxwork DVDs as they are released around the world? That's right, this is the third review I've done for Waxwork. The first being the domestic laserdisc, second being the UK Region 2 PAL DVD from Columbia Tri-Star, and the third being this German Region 2 PAL DVD From Dragon Entertainment.
Waxwork has been a longtime favorite of mine, which in part explains all the reviews I've done. It's a fun movie that dabbles in several sub-genres. I was excited to find out Dragon has obtained the rights to release Waxwork in Germany. As of this writing, their DVD (the one being reviewed here) is the only one that contains extras consisting of more than the standard theatrical trailer. This DVD from Dragon contains a 'Making of' featurette and another featurette titled 'The Real Waxwork'.
Before we jump into this review for the Dragon DVD, let me point out that Waxwork is finally getting a release onto NTSC Region 1 DVD.. Artisan is scheduled to release a double feature DVD containing both Waxwork and Waxwork 2 here in the United States. Good news? Unfortunately, it may not be. For one, my research thus far is indicating that the Artisan DVD will contain the R rated cut of Waxwork, whereas both of the Region 2 PAL DVDs contain the Unrated cut. Lets hope I'm proven wrong on that, or I can confirm otherwise, but as of this writing the response I'm getting from Artisan leads me to believe that it's going to be the R rated cut. The aspect ratio for Waxwork is 1.33:1, so there's no problem there. I have yet to confirm the aspect ratio for Waxwork 2, so there could be a potential problem there since Artisan's DVD will definitely contain full frame transfers for both films.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I love the movie Waxwork. 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!
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 DVD is indeed the unrated and "uncensored" edition, 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 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...
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.
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:
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?
So far as I can tell, transfer wise this Region 2 DVD from Dragon is identical to the Region 2 DVD from Columbia Tri-Star. It's certainly possible they aren't from the same master, but in terms of quality they are identical. I compared several scenes from each and found them identical.
This Waxwork DVD offers a vastly superior transfer over the past VHS and laserdisc releases. The 1.33:1 OAR transfer on this DVD provides a much higher resolution, resulting in a sharper and clearer picture. There are several scenes that are soft and lacking in detail, however. Grain is significantly reduced, and there are only a handful of nicks and other print blemishes that briefly appear. Colors are more vibrant than the laserdisc and VHS, but still appear a bit subdued. Overall this is a solid transfer. I'm rating it with a B-.
The Dolby 2.0 track appears to be identical to laserdisc. There's some nice separation on the fronts. The sound is crisp and distortion free; dialog was clearly audible at all times.
Here is where this Dragon DVD really stands out from the other Waxwork DVDs. This one actually has extras that consist of more than just the standard trailer that the others offer. Sadly, there is still no commentary track, which is a shame as I would love to hear one. What is here is a 15 minute 'Making Of' featurette. It includes interviews with various cast and crew members, including director Anthony Hickox and star Zach Galligan. There are a few bloopers, a good amount of behind-the-scenes footage, and a look at some of the effects work. It's interesting; as a big fan of the movie I enjoyed seeing this. Several clips from the movie are shown during the featurette, no doubt used as filler material. While the overall featurette is rather short, it's a welcome extra considering all the bare bones releases Waxwork has received in the past.
Last is the theatrical trailer for Waxwork (in English) and trailers for Amazonas, Fantom Killer 1 and 2, Maya, Score, and Sudden Fury.
The difficult decision now is choosing which Waxwork DVD to get. Both the UK and German PAL DVDs are uncut and contain virtually the same a/v quality. This German DVD from Dragon has the benefit of containing a few enjoyable extras, but probably not enough to justify a second purchase for those that already own the UK DVD, or plan on getting the upcoming Artisan DVD here in the United States. I suspect Artisan's DVD will be the R rated cut, making it the 'cut' version, so that is another factor for everyone to consider. I will certainly update this review once I confirm the details on Artisan's DVD. For die-hard fans like me, this Dragon DVD is simply a must own for the extras alone.
One other item to note about this Dragon DVD is the packaging it comes with. Do not expect the usual standard keepcase, but rather a cardboard slipcase where a 1-disc gatefold slides out. One side of the gatefold has a pocket with the insert (in German text) and the other side has the actual disc itself. When you remove the disc you are greeted by a graphic scene underneath it - pretty cool. I know some people dislike this cardboard slipcase over the standard keepcases. I tend to prefer the cardboard slipcase as they remind me of laserdisc packaging. Obviously there needs to be a little more care with a slipcase as there is much more potential for damage. Note that much of the packaging artwork has been scanned and included in this review.
Waxwork is a great horror movie 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. I highly recommend everyone give it a try.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B-
Sound - A-
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 33 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English / German Dolby Digital 2.0
- Making-Of Featurette
- The Real Waxwork