In spite of some odd moments of brilliance and its darker rating, “House of Wax” is as bad as all the other bland horror flicks that have hit theatres in the past few months. “Wax” looks and feels like a poor man’s “Texas Chainsaw” clone whose only difference is that the masked killer dispatches victims by a variety of methods that don’t involve an electrically powered cutting instrument. Much like the famed opening of “Ghost Ship” (the only part of the film of any note), if it wasn’t for the more gruesome moments in this, then the whole thing would be considered a direct to video write off.
An extended scene involving one of the cast being prepared and changed into a wax figurine (and his friend’s subsequent failed attempt to help him) are amongst those great darker moments, both come in the film’s second and much stronger half. Its a surprisingly long teen horror flick (nearly two hours) and as a result the first 50 minutes or so stumbles around blindly with nothing short of bad in-jokes about Paris Hilton being caught on video and encounters with truckers in the “Deliverance” mold.
Not helping are the characters. The likes of Cuthbert, Murray and Padalecki have all demonstrated in the last few years that they can take poorly written characters and actually make them work on their assorted TV series. Yet none of them seem to want to put effort into doing that again in this, although none of them particularly embarrass themselves either. The result is a group of dull teens one hopes will get popped off in gruesome ways (and for the most part they are). If Hilton wasn’t who she was, no-one would notice her in this – as is she’s just the one thing she would hate to be described as – very ordinary.
Half-hearted attempts are made in the script to try and establish some character background (Murray is a bad boy wannabe for example) but all are so weak it’s a joke. Ditto the central concept of the ‘good and bad’ twins – the writers seem to be trying to send a message with this which isn’t quite clear. The shocks aren’t particularly any good – too many close-ups and no real suspense. One or two good jumps (eg. the dog) were already spoiled by the trailer.
The production values however are fine – an intriguing abandoned town set and the house of wax itself, especially during its fiery finale, look top notch. It’s also good that the filmmaker’s rely more on an actual orchestral score than some metal or pop soundtrack. When the action and pace finally start moving along it gets better, the 15-minute finale to fight and escape the melting house is in fact a great sequence and the only thing that’ll stand out in one’s memory once the credits are over (although the coda is kind of cute). An improvement over Dark Castle’s last few outings like “Ghost Ship” and “Thirteen Ghosts” but ultimately still a sticky mess.