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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

House of Wax (review)

Melted Cheese

There’s a sexy figure on display throughout House of Wax, and we probably won’t see its like ever again. It’s the sign at a rural Florida gas station announcing that the price of gas is — *drool* — $1.19 a gallon. Oh, baby.

You thought I was talking about Paris Hilton’s figure? Pul-eeze. I find it hard to believe anyone finds her genuinely exciting — any appeal is more that of a fiery car wreck on the interstate, isn’t it? — but however you rate her on the sexy scale, the fact is that if a bit of mystery is vital to sexiness, she really is a bit too, ah, overexposed to qualify.
But clearly, pimping why-the-hell-is-she-famous Paris Hilton to movie audiences is a primary reason for the existence of this crass “remake” of the 1953 Vincent Price classic. And worse, someone got it into his head that this would be the perfect opportunity to satirize Hilton’s notoriety at the same time it’s being cashed in on. One of this gang of typical horror-movie morons has a camcorder running all the time, and what does the camcorder catch? Paris making out with her boyfriend (played by Robert Ri’chard [Coach Carter], the poor thing). Paris (apparently) giving her boyfriend a blowjob while he’s driving. Paris writhing around doing a sad parody of a striptease. Paris getting impaled in the head with a wooden stake.

Oh, wait, that last one? That’s the one satisfying moment of the movie. But the only thing approaching satire is how Hilton looks like she’s encased in wax from the very beginning of the movie, long before she and her homies stumble upon the crazy guys who run the museum full of suspiciously realistic-looking wax figures.

Did I say “horror-movie morons”? I did, didn’t I? That was something of understatement. There’s your run-of-the-mill dumb, like when you lock your keys in the car or forget to mail the phone bill. There’s really dumb, like robbing a bank and writing the gimme-the-money note on the back of your own deposit slip, or distributing memos to the Senate about how your party can make some political hay on a family tragedy. There’s horror-movie dumb, which is when you stroll right into the rundown Gothic house at the end of the lonely road on Halloween night in the middle of a thundering rainstorm with wolves howling in the distance and shout out “Hall-ooooo! Anyone home?”

And then there’s these kids, who do the equivalent of walking into that Gothic house and ignoring all the blood and rusty implements of torture in order to sit down and start psychoanalyzing themselves and their relationships with one another. It’s meant to be “clever” and “original,” I think, that twins Carly (Elisha Cuthbert: Love Actually, Old School) and Nick (Chad Michael Murray: Freaky Friday) have to unravel their contentious relationship — “Mom always liked you better,” that kind of stuff — while also fighting off the twin psychos (Brian Van Holt: Man of the House, S.W.A.T., as both brothers) who run the museum and enjoy imprisoning still-alive people in wax. Twin screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes pretty much ignored Charles Belden’s script for the 1953 flick in order to work out some of their own issues, though not at all well, it is important to stress. The more these kids talk about themselves and their problems, the more tedious it all gets, and the more we want them to die.

Actually, almost every line uttered by Paris Hilton ends up being a mini review of the film: “I’m gonna throw up.” “Oh my god I hate you.” “Put down that camera.” Though I have no doubt that those instances of satire are entirely unintentional. They don’t make the film worth watching, though. If you really must, you can see Paris’s other movie online for free, anyway.


MPAA: rated R for horror violence, some sexual content and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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