J.D. Lafrance
House of Wax DVD Review

House of Wax

February 10, 2006

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra,
Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams, Robert Ri'chard, Dragicia Debert, Thomas Adamson, Murray Smith,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

It is a testimony to the 1953 version of House of Wax that it works just as well in 3D as it does without that gimmick. This is due in large part to the presence of Vincent Price and Andre De Toth’s direction that gives the film a certain spark of excitement and melodrama that is quite engaging. The unfortunate 2005 remake has none of these elements and is quite awful. It’s a demographic movie with a cast of young actors that a twentysomething audience will recognize from various T.V. shows: Elisha Cuthbert from 24, Chad Michael Murray from One Tree Hill, Jared Padalecki from The Gilmore Girls and so on. These people aren’t cast because they’re right for the role – that’s merely incidental. They have been cast for their familiarity to a young audience with disposable income – Hollywood studios’ target demographic.

A group of college kids go on a road trip to see a football game and the film quickly trots out several tired stereotypes: the brooding rebel (Michael Murray), the goofy comic relief (Abrahams), the jock (Padalecki), the ditsy blond (Hilton) and the plucky female protagonist (Cuthbert). En route they are forced to take a detour because of road construction (don’t you hate when that happens?) and they camp out over night. The next morning our heroes stumble across what looks like the compost heap for the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

After one of their cars breaks down, the gang find a town that looks like its frozen in time (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is on the marquee of the local theatre). The centre of attraction is a run-down wax museum, the eponymous House of Wax. Despite the “closed” sign hanging on the door, our heroes go in anyway and marvel at the life-like wax statues. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why they look so realistic.

House of Wax is the kind of horror film that the Scream movies comment on ironically. The cast, for the large part, is unremarkable but to their credit they have very little to work with, although, Paris Hilton proves to be the acting equivalent of a black hole and fortunately isn’t given much to do (aside from the obligatory strip tease). The killer isn’t even all that interesting. If you’re going to do a paint-by-numbers slasher flick (as this is obviously trying to be) at least make the killer distinctive. House of Wax fails even on this level.

The movie telegraphs its frights as the gang is predictably picked off one by one. House of Wax is one of those movies with characters who seem to lack any kind of common sense. About the only thing going for the movie is that the filmmakers didn’t cop out with a bloodless PG-13 rating and went for a gory R. Sadly, this is about the only thing that one can recommend about this movie and that just isn’t enough – especially when a lower budget and gutsier (literally) movie like The Devil’s Rejects (2005) is superior in every way.

Special Features:

“B-Roll and Bloopers Video Cast Commentary” reunited Chad Michael Murray, Elisha Cuthbert, Paris Hilton and Jared Padalecki to comment on footage of them making the movie, finished scenes and goofs on the set. None of them really offer much substance or insight in this slight extra.

“Wax On” examines the production design aspect of the movie. The filmmakers basically built the whole town that our heroes discover and consciously wanted to get away from the feeling of a studio backlot.

“House Built on Wax” takes a look at the visual FX. They wanted to rely as much on practical effects as possible and go for a raw, documentary feel (?!). The CGI was only there to support the practical stuff.

“Gag Reel” is a standard montage of pratfalls, blown lines and general goofing around on the set.

“Alternate Open: Jennifer Killed” is deleted footage of a stranded motorist becoming the first grisly victim of the killer with some nice effects.

“From Location: Joel Silver Reveals House of Wax” features the famous producer and Hollywood mogul introducing the movie a la Alfred Hitchcock in tongue and cheek fashion.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 35%



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