HOUSE OF WAX (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2005)
The filmmakers behind HOUSE OF WAX, a reworking of André De Toth’s 1953 horror flick with Vincent Price, couldn't imagine a more horrifying scenario than socialite and professional publicitymonger Paris Hilton's omnipresence in the spotlight. Although this film perpetuates Hilton's media overexposure, casting her in a minor supporting role that all but declares her screen butchering is a stroke of genius. HOUSE OF WAX tells a familiar story of college students who end up in a place that time forgot and are chased by maniacs. Elisha Cuthbert plays the heroine Carly. She and her boyfriend wander into a small town and find a wax museum in which the curator uses live humans to make his creations.
HOUSE OF WAX has a wicked comic streak that compensates for the boilerplate plot and ordinary sections before the killings begin. Several jokes at the expense of Hilton and her infamous sex tape didn’t require the wittiest writers but hit the mark nonetheless. Hilton’s blank acting makes Cuthbert look good by comparison. She was never a strong element of the TV thriller 24 and hasn’t been missed this season, but as Carly she makes a legitimate claim for the role of horror’s new scream queen. HOUSE OF WAX’S violence is abrupt and gory, giving it an ick factor that surprises and repulses in a good way. The final confrontation between Carly and the psychopaths occurs as the museum melts around them. It’s a fun sequence with visual flair. The B movies of yesteryear have been elevated to A level these days, but HOUSE OF WAX is unpretentious in delivering the cheap scarefest goods.
(Review first aired on the May 10, 2005 NOW PLAYING)