Since it opened this weekend in 2005, we thought it was just the right time to present our second Innocence and Experience team-up column, as Dory and Thom discuss the much-maligned House of Wax. Dory: “PREY. SLAY. DISPLAY” That’s the tagline from House of Wax, starring Elisha Cuthbert (Happy Endings) as Carly and Chad Michael Murray (Agent Carter) as her brother Nick. The two college kids are headed to a football game with their friends, when they get lost and set up camp just outside Ambrose, Louisiana. The town of Ambrose and its House of Wax turn out to be a Bates Motel-style trap, complete with bone-saw-wielding serial killers–twin brothers, Bo and Vincent, with both being played amazingly by Brian Van Holt (Cougar Town). Sounds like your average slasher, so what makes this one so loveable? House of Wax has all the makings of a great horror movie–ridiculous dialogue, awesome death scenes, and a killer soundtrack. Heads get hacked off to the badass songs of Marilyn Manson, Disturbed, and Stutterfly. When it hit theaters in 2005, alongside Hostel, Amityville Horror, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, it still managed to stand out. Wax is a different kind of horror film and it’s home to two of my fave serial killers, Bo and Vincent Sinclair. Their killing methods are incredibly innovative, making for an awesome ride. Characters get decapitated, impaled, and burned alive. One victim even has his achilles tendon sliced, mid-step. Posing as the town garage mechanic, Bo drags victims to his brother Vincent, who drugs, skins, and waxes them for display in the House of Wax. That’s right, beneath every wax figure is either a rotting corpse or a live person suffocating to death. And unlike other horror movies, House of Wax has a secret weapon, Paris “The Heiress” Hilton. In 2006, Paris earned the Golden Raspberry Award for “Worst Supporting Actress” for her portrayal of Carly’s BFF, Paige. Paris is so jaw-droppingly awful in this movie, that the filmmakers must have had a wonderful sense of humor in casting her. Giving Paris the role of the Greek chorus, speaking truths in a sea of stupidity? Brilliant. As Paige, Paris gets lines like, “I dropped my stupid lip balm,” which she delivers as a question, because that’s how she talks. “I dropped my stupid lip balm?” Acting is hard. And in light of this, Paige becomes a likable character. Thom: I liked the film. I didn’t love it the way you do, but I liked it enough that I was glad to have watched it. It’s like the type of movies I watched a lot when I was a kid–which means I don’t really think if it as a different kind of horror film. Back in the olden days before all of the various platforms that allow us to call up any movie we want that is floating around out in cyberspace–even back before basic cable when most areas of the country could only receive television programming through aerial antennae–major metropolitan areas used to have at least one UHF channel (higher than channel 13 on the dial) what would be classified as an “independent” (which meant it was locally owned and had no network affiliation). Most independent UHF channels would have a Saturday afternoon and/or a Saturday late-night program devoted to science fiction and horror movies, and when I lived in Cleveland and San Francisco I would always watch those programs that had names like “Creature Features” or “Sci-Fi Saturday Cinema.” When I lived in San Francisco, I saw the original Night of the Living Dead for the first time on one of those late-night creature feature shows on UHF channel 36. I also saw the original House of Wax that starred Vincent Price on one of those creature feature shows, and this more recent House of Wax would fit right in as a contemporary cult classic on those old-time UHF programs. So, this movie wasn’t particularly original to me–but it was very well executed. The only reason I ignored this film when it came out was because it does have Paris Hilton in it. Thom (continued): Despite her physical beauty, my stomach literally feels a bit queasy when I see her. I’m not kidding. However, I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t get turned into a wax sculpture. Paris sort of looks waxy already, so it would have been a nice “meta” moment for me. Dory: I know! When I first saw it in theaters, I kept wondering if another character would mention that Paris pretty much is a wax figure. I expected someone from the audience to yell, “Bitch don’t run! Just stand still!” Seriously, in a wax museum, she’s already in camouflage. But no–her clichéd character hides in a broken down car. Her first car scene in the film is just as entertaining. Paris plays along in a parody of herself, paying homage to her 2001 sex tape, 1 Night in Paris. In one of the opening scenes, the filmmakers shoot see Paris in green, night vision–a nod to the lighting in her sex tape. It’s a hilarious scene as Paige appears to be going down on her boyfriend, Blake (Robert Ri’chard) while her friends film her in traffic. Dory (continued): However, few things compare to Paris’s death scene, which I rank as the #2 horror movie death of all time (#1 being Scream, where a garage door kills a cheerleader). Paris’s death scene is by far the best death in the film. Just when things are heating up in Blake’s tent, complete with strip show, suddenly there’s a noise. What was that? Oh, just a serial killer. Blake is quickly killed by a knife to the neck, leaving Paige to fend for herself. She ends up in a garage, nervously searching through dead cell phones (there’s a metaphor in there somewhere), but nothing can help her now. Vincent, the masked killer, throws a javelin-like pole through Paige’s head, killing her instantly. She falls to her knees, the pole hitting the ground so that it then slides through her brain, with Vincent then filming the entire thing. Dory (continued): Paris on her knees, with a big, long pole jammed right through her brain. Awesome. Thom: Yes, it was a great death. Considering the green night-vision scene where she seemed to be performing road head, I would have expected the pole to have first entered through her mouth and then into her brain and out the back. We would have then been left with Paris, on her knees with a big long pole jammed into her mouth. One of the things that I thought was awesome is that the wax sculptor was named “Vincent”; it seems like his name might have been an homage to Vincent Price’s starring role in the original House of Wax. I was a huge Vincent Price fan when I was a kid. I saw many of his movies and I loved him as the villain on the Hawaiian episodes of The Brady Bunch–but one of my favorite Vincent Price performances was his vocal appearance on Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare album. Dory: Yeah this film is slasher geek heaven–there are so many nods to other works in the genre. And Vincent is one of my favorite serial killers. The blank expression of his white mask mocks the victims, screaming in horror. White and sociopathic, the mask pays homage to killers Michael Myers (Halloween) and Ghostface (Scream). Not only is Vincent a heartless socio, he’s also mute, adding to the sheer horror of his character. There’s something inherently terrifying about a silent, emotionless killer. Also, Vincent constantly melts his own wax mask, changing his features throughout the film–adding to the terror. At times, all we see are flashes of Vincent’s arms, wielding things like bone-saws and surgical shears. He attacks Carly’s boyfriend, Wade (Jared Padalecki, Supernatural), with surgical shears in one of the most horrifying scenes. Wade gets his achilles tendon sliced mid-step and drops to the floor in unbearable suffering. Fuck. It’s incredibly painful to watch. It’s so realistic, I could almost feel my own heel tendons seize. Then, still conscious, Wade is skinned and covered in boiling hot wax. Thom: Yeah, as soon as Padalecki made his appearance I felt comfortable–like I was with an old friend because I have been a fan of Supernatural since its first episode aired in September 2005–just four months after House of Wax came out in the theaters. After seeing Padalecki consistently for ten seasons, there were times while I was watching this movie when I momentarily felt like I was watching Supernatural. It was a bit strange because I kept thinking, “Sam’s going to kick Bo’s ass anytime now”–but, no, this was Padalecki playing Wade and he’s the one who got his ass kicked (or heel snipped) by Vincent. Dean didn’t come rushing in to the rescue. The cutting of the achilles tendon was imaginatively painful, though. I rather liked that part–and it was almost repeated in Paris’s death scene (which came after Wade’s) when Vincent shoved the blade up through the steel grate stairway she was standing on and clipped her heel or achilles tendon. However, with Padalecki’s character, another great scene was when Dalton (another friend of the group) discovered Wade on display in the museum–and he’s still alive under the wax, which we learn when his eyes start to move. Dalton mistakenly believes he can just peel the wax off his skin, but the wax and skin have become one. At the point, Vincent rushes in with a cleaver and takes a swing at Dalton, who ducks. Instead, Vincent’s cleaver slices off a segment of Wade’s face like ham on a deli slicer so that we see the musculature underneath. Very gruesome. Dory: Gruesome indeed. Especially when bad boy Nick decapitates Wade in a failed rescue attempt. So cool. That feeling of disgust and horror is pretty constant throughout the film. The movie is by no means scary, but it’s really authentic. The idea of two twin brothers constructing an entire town made of wax-covered corpses is a little far-fetched. However, the idea of two redneck brothers pulling unsuspecting tourists off the road and murdering them … totally buy it. Bo and Vincent are amazing villains in this film as redneck serial killers. To this day, I have very realistic visions of Vincent every time my car breaks down. Vincent is disfigured, his wax mask, constantly melting and changing form in new and terrifying ways. Yet, his brother Bo is shockingly convincing as a kind, Southern gentlemen just trying to help poor Carly and Nick. He holds the door for ladies, and he has an incredibly sexy smile. He’s played by Brian Van Holt, whom I knew from Black Hawk Down as the slightly older, super hot guy. Bo is unsettlingly attractive, like Timothy Olyphant’s sexy serial killer Mickey in Scream 2. It’s a really sickening feeling being attracted to the killer, and the director knows the power of that reaction and uses it. That’s evident in the way Bo tortures Carly, which I find especially sexual. It’s not sexy when Bo binds Carly’s wrists with tape and puts super glue on her lips, but Bo looks at Carly in a sexual way when he gets in her face. It looks as if he’s going to kiss her–with that “got a real purdy mouth” redneck gleam. That redneck makes me think of rape slashers like Deliverance and The Last House on the Left. Thom: I agree that scene had a sexual aspect; Carly was presented in a very sexual manner in that scene, as it emphasized Elisha Cuthbert’s bust with a top button undone on her shirt, if I remember correctly. Cuthbert is an actor whose name I had seen before, but this was the first time I’ve actually watched any show she’s been in. I thought she turned in a solid performance as the hot girl (much hotter than Paris) who is vulnerable at the beginning and then (much like Jamie Lee Curtis’s “Laurie” in Halloween) becomes a self-reliant person who takes charge of the situation at the end. Dory: I agree–much like the “Scream Queen,” Carly survives by taking charge and withstanding torture. And when we see that torture close-up, it’s really unnerving. For me, the worst is when Carly peels her super-glued lips apart. With the close shot, we can see the pain in her eyes, blood streaming down her face. Could you imagine having to make that decision? Keep quiet while the sexy stalker kills your friends–or pull your own super-glued lips apart in a bloody mess to scream for help? Dory (continued): Luckily, Carly goes for the second plan, and she and Nick save the day. Thom: Yeah, I liked the transformation Carly went through from damsel-in-distress victim to someone who takes action on her own–though by following her brother’s lead to some extent. However, when Vincent has Nick pinned down, it’s Carly who rescues her brother. As I mentioned earlier, Carly is a lot like Laurie Strode in Halloween in that regard. Dory: Exactly, but unlike Laurie, Carly rescues her brother instead of being rescued from him–a nice twist. I love the scene where Carly and Nick team up to kill the evil twins, Bo and Vincent. That final deathmatch takes place inside the wax museum, now engulfed in flames. And yes, instead of Nick saving Carly as a damsel in distress, the two are equally badass. Another horror movie cliché gets subverted when both Nick and Carly survive. Usually, we’re left with just the Final Girl–the last girl to survive (usually the virgin). Like you said, Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. The survival of the last girl is always an awesome feminist statement, but it makes it really tough on the survivor. Yet with this ending, Carly gets to rebuild her life with her brother and have a shot at a normal life–together. Dory (continued): In the end, this is a great horror film all around. There’s a killer soundtrack, creative death scenes, and Paris Hilton running around in panties. What’s not to love? See larger image House of Wax [Blu-ray] House of Wax (2005) (BD) New From: $5.95 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.