House of Wax is about as enjoyable as a Saturday-morning hangover. And I’m not talking about one of those sissy gin-and-tonic hangovers that fade after a glass of orange juice and an Eggo; I’m talking about that hangover you get when you and some friends decide it’s a swell idea to drink malt liquor and smoke two packs of Camels and a fatty. And when you wake up in the morning, your Colt .45 burps are stripping the lining of your throat and your mouth tastes like someone else’s ass. Oh, and when you finally manage to open your eyes, that mustachioed woman from your office is lying next to you and you’re wearing her granny panties as a necklace. That’s what kind of hangover I’m talking about, folks. And if I had to decide between leaving a kiss-off note with the circus freak from cubicle three and crawling out of her bedroom with her undies still tied around my neck or watching House of Wax again, I’d probably opt for the former, because at least I wouldn’t feel as dirty as I did walking out of the theater today.
House of Wax is, as you’d expect, completely devoid of any sort of plot; in fact, it’s more like a premise … well, actually, premise is too strong a word; it’s more like a lame setup, a weak vehicle written for the sole purpose of getting to watch Paris Hilton’s cinematic death. Everything before that is just slow, momentum-free, rub-you-until-you’re-raw foreplay, and the 20 minutes following her death is akin to lying, unsatisfied, in your own mess, without even a cigarette to satiate your nicotine craving.
The movie follows six teenagers — four of whom were probably specially bred to get knocked off early in horror films — who decide to take a road trip to see a big football game in Florida. On the way, they decide to pull off near Ambrosia, Louisiana, to camp out. During the night, for no real reason at all, a truck pulls up into their campsite, shines its lights on the teenagers, and then drives away. Inexplicably, the next day they discover that the fan belt on one of the cars is broken, necessitating a trip into Ambrosia, home of the House of Wax, which not only accommodates wax statues, but is itself made entirely of wax. Neat, huh? Yeah. Not so much.
The teenagers soon learn that the entire town is made of wax, and that the figures are actual bodies, coated in insoluble fatty acid. Not soon enough, the town’s sole proprietor and his brother start cutting up the unsuspecting teenagers and turning them into wax statues, until all but the movie’s hero and heroine are left to kill off the bad folks, which I can only assume they managed to do. Personally, I couldn’t stick around long enough to find out, so overcome was I with the tedium of watching yet another low-budget teenage slasher film with absolutely nothing (nothing) new, original, fun, or interesting to add to the genre.
The movie stars Elisha Cuthbert, who never bothers to do what the target demographic has come to see, namely: get naked. Chad Michael Murray plays her twin, who is smolderingly angry, and manages to take his shirt off enough to please the gay men in attendance who have extremely indiscriminate taste in shirtless teenage boys. Jared Padalecki plays the boyfriend, and is no more than the same bland, space-filling character he plays intermittently on “Gilmore Girls.” Robert Ri’chard plays the token black character, so you know it’s only a matter of time before he’s killed off; and Jon Abrahams plays the guy who is supposed to act as comic relief but is given nothing to work with but a goofy smile, which he has absolutely no problem displaying, whether or not the story calls for it. But the real star of the show is Paris Hilton, who makes excellent use of her screen time, creating a character whom the audience cannot wait to see murdered with as violent a means as possible, and it is there — and only there — that first-time director Jaume Collet-Serra does not disappoint, goring the hotel heiress in splendiferous fashion.
But for the acne-riddled 13-year-old boy who sneaks out of State of the Union to watch House of Wax, the movie is a mixed bag at best. I’m afraid that the T & A — save for a brief Paris Hilton ass-dance — is noticeably absent; however, the geeky Fangoria side of you probably won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, the first death doesn’t arrive until 50 minutes in, so you have a good while to build up the courage to slip out of whatever theater you’re in and past the ticket takers; and if you’re only interested in Paris’ death, that happens at exactly the hour-fifteen mark, if you’re checking your watch. A piece of advice: if you’re lucky enough to get that chubby girl from math class to sneak in with you, you’ll know she like-likes you if she pretends to be scared, because not even the most Ritalin-happy teenager could get worked up about anything in House of Wax.
If you’re not a 13-year-old boy with a boner for blood, however, House of Wax has absolutely nothing to offer you, but I’ve got a bottle of Colt .45 if you’re interested.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.House of Wax / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()