Review Date: October 24, 2005
Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 10/25/2005
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Between The Simple Life
, the sex tape, the cell phone stealing, her clothing line, her perfume brand, her catch phrases, her bar hopping pictures, her engagements, her entanglements, her everything, Paris Hilton was without a doubt the most over-saturated celebrity of all of 2004. It was a stroke of genius by Joel Silver, then, to bring Paris aboard for House of Wax
. For if there is one thing people want to see, indeed even pay for, it is to see Paris Hilton die on screen. House of Wax
marks the fourth remake for Silver’s Dark Castle pictures line, with the original film this time of course being Wrong Turn
. So enough with the trivia, how’s Paris’ death scene?
It’s the end of summer, and for a group of high school friends it’s the last time they will all be together. Carly Jones (Elisha Cuthbert
) is planning on leaving her best friend Paige (Paris Hilton
), her delinquent brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray
) and her good guy boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki
) in smalltown Louisiana while she pursues an education at a big city college. As a final hurrah, the group decides to go on a road trip to go see a football game. The trip quickly turns sour however, when one of the drivers decides to break slasher rule number one: never take a shortcut, no matter how much time it will theoretically save. The group gets lost and ends up setting up tent in the woods, where they soon discover they are not alone.
After a night of boozin’, the teens end up caught in the headlights of the prospective murderer. The killer just watches, silent as the kids start to panic. It is then that Nick breaks slasher rule number two: never badmouth or assault the killer if they’ve done nothing to you. Nick throws a beer bottle at the killer’s car, and in 24 hours he’ll wish he hadn’t. The killer leaves without a word, but the Wade finds out the next day that his engine belt has been cut. Wade and Carly decide to just wait it out at camp while the others go to the game and grab a belt, but a warmhearted local offers to give them a ride to the nearest town. The town’s name is Ambrose, which has become a virtual ghost town over the years. Throughout the years though, one business has survived: the House of Wax.
Wade and Carly look around the city for spare parts, but come up empty. They run-in to Bo (Brian Van Holt
), who promises he’ll help them as soon as church is over. While they wait, they decide to break slasher rule three: don’t go into somebody’s house if you aren’t invited. They go into the house of wax, and Wade ends up killed by a man with a wax mask. Just what sort of secrets is this town hiding, and will her friends make it back in enough time to help her figure it all out alive?
If there is one thing that can be said for the Dark Castle line of films, it is that they are consistent. Each employ stylish photography, hansom production values, at times clever pastiches of horror films past, and good performances. Yes, I said good performances in reference to a film staring Paris Hilton. She may be one of the least intelligent celebrities to emerge this side of Britney Spears, but the character she plays isn’t a huge stretch from her real persona. She essentially plays herself, right down to some mock sex tape infrared MiniDV footage, but she does it well. Granted, she doesn’t have the acting chops that Geoffrey Rush, Gabriel Byrne or Halle Berry on display in the previous Dark Castle films, but she’s surprisingly enjoyable to watch.
Also enjoyable is the imaginative art direction. A whole art-deco-meets-middletown-usa look was applied to the entire city which was built specifically for the film. The city itself looks beautiful in that gritty sort of way, but the titular attraction is what really stands out. The House of Wax itself is a triumph of art direction, particularly in the final act when things heat up. Immaculate detail was no doubt applied to the location, and it pays off, as the film no doubt ends off on high note.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film is nearly silent by comparison. The catch-22 with Dark Castle’s consistency is that they also consistently employ lengthy, overwrought scripts that end up undermining all the work that goes into the other aspects of the production. House of Wax
runs about three hours too long at 113 minutes, with one of the slowest starts in slasher history. The first death doesn’t occur until past the 40-minute mark, and even after that it is slow going. The script needlessly fleshes out the Final Girl’s relationship with her boyfriend, her brother, her best friend, and basically anyone else who has a speaking part in the film. The time we spend guessing as to whether or not she will go away to college or make amends with her brother go in vein, for at the end of the film nothing is solved. As soon as her lungs start screaming all semblances of character or plot are abandoned. Tombs of the Blind Dead
, which is also new to stores, balanced character drama with horror. Here we are with House of Wax
, almost thirty five years later, and character development is still something at a loss to the screenwriters.
The script and pacing in the film are so weak that they unfortunately bog down what is otherwise enjoyable hillbilly horror. It is a shame too, because yes, Paris’s death is one of the best death scenes to grace a Hollywood film in some time. It, as well as many other scenes in the film, does not shy away from gore in the least bit. There are some pretty brutal moments of carnage on display here…it’s too bad you have to suffer through the plot so long just to get them. As a whole, the film is better than most of the other Dark Castle output, but that still isn’t saying much. A movie full of promise, from Paris Hilton dying to One Tree Hill
’s Chad Michael Murray trying to look badass in a beard, ends up ultimately lost in the backwoods blahs.
House of Wax
is on display in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and the result is good if not without flaws. The colors are for the most part vivid, with the camp ground greens and the blues of Paris’s skimpy attire coming through with vibrancy. The reds tend to look a little harsh at times, although no bleeding is present. There is some slight artifacting present in some of the late night blacks, but for the most part it is not that noticeable. Although not as bad as the recent The Amityville Horror
disc, this seems to be another case of over-compressing the feature film in order to fit on all the extras. House of Wax
was originally announced as a two-disc, and the image quality would have been much better had it been released as such. As it stands though, the transfer is for the most part clear and clean, but still a disappointment.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track included here is not really standout. It sounds as it should, I guess, but there just isn’t really anything of distinction. It is quiet for the most part, although the final thirty minutes do pick up considerably. The gooey wax effects sound good coming from all speakers, but a little more channel separation would have been nice. Not bad.
As mentioned previously, this was originally supposed to be a two-disc set before the movie underperformed at the box office, so all the two-disc extras have been compressed to a single disc. That said, there is some good footage here, and plenty of fun to be had. The biggest supplement is a 27-minute video extra where the principal actors in the film (Hilton, Murray, Cuthbert, and Padalecki) all sit around and watch and talk about the behind the scenes footage being shown on the television in front of them. We cut from them to the footage on the television, and the actors are aree accessibly down to earth and entertaining enough to watch. It is fun to watch Chad Michael Murray, as he seems to be trying to move as far away from Paris Hilton as possible, often shadowing his face so as to avoid any screen captures with the two of them in it. Seeing the footage of him throwing a tantrum on set after being hit in the head by a prop is also awesome. This is a worthwhile extra, and certainly a welcome change from your standard commentary.
Next up is an alternate opening sequence entitled “Jennifer Killed”. Why this wasn’t included in the film it is a wonder, since not only does it have a pretty violent and brutal death scene, but it would have helped immeasurably in offsetting the 47-minute wait until the first kill in the film in its present form. A short little minute long extra follows called “From Location: Joel Silver Reveals House of Wax”. It is a puff piece for sure, but at least Joel Silver gets hit by a car at the end of it. A fairly lengthy 9-minute gag reel is also included, and it has some pretty funny bits. The aforementioned scene with Chad Michael Murray getting hit in the head with a prop is here, but the real gem is a scene of Paris Hilton screaming without any dubbed scream. She may be a looker, but she ain’t a screamer.
Next up are a couple of featurettes about the production, one devoted to the set design, the other to the special effects. The latter one is called “The House Build on Wax” and runs a tick over 10-minutes. In it, the director and some of the effects crew discuss the original, and how they had to do something new with the effects. The melting effects are shown in depth, complete with some revealing test footage that is shown in comparison to the finished product. The “Wax On” featurette, which details the set design, looks at how all the wax was built and how they got the idea for the town from some old European stores that Joel Silver remembered from long ago. Nothing too revealing, but both the featurettes are entertaining enough in showing the challenges of the production. The disc is rounded off with the routine theatrical trailer. A good, not great, batch of extras.
House of Wax
is for the most part a hulking slab of boredom that momentarily melts to life for the big gooey conclusion. The production values are high and the gore good, but you’ll have to suffer through all the boredom of the first half before you notice. The video is pretty average, marred by some weak black levels and slight artifacting. The sound is acceptable, and the extras are moderately entertaining if forgettable. Really, this is a middling release on all fronts. If you are looking for a good remake this Halloween, pick up The Amityville Horror
instead. That’s hot.
Movie - C
Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 53 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- B-Roll and blooper video cast commentary
- "Wax On: The Design of House of Wax" featurette
- "The House Buil on Wax: The Visual Effects of House of Wax" featurette
- "From Location: Joel Silver Reveals House of Wax" promo
- Gag reel
- Alternate opening
- Theatrical trailer