×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

House of Wax

A Paris Hilton strip tease and some impressive special effects are the selling points of "House of Wax," an in-name-only remake of the 1953 Andre De Toth horror classic that reps the latest offering from Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment. Direly predictable, with candle-drip pacing and a pervasive unpleasantness, pic arrives at a fortuitous moment given the box-office power of gory genre fare. But an R rating, the lack of an obvious "Amityville"-type hook and heavy opening-weekend competition from "Kingdom of Heaven" should keep business for "House" at the level of a solid, but unspectacular sideshow attraction.

With:
Carly - Elisha Cuthbert Nick - Chad Michael Murray Bo/Vincent - Brian Van Holt Paige - Paris Hilton Wade - Jared Padalecki Dalton - Jon Abrahams Blake - Robert Ri'chard

A Paris Hilton strip tease and some impressive special effects are the selling points of “House of Wax,” an in-name-only remake of the 1953 Andre De Toth horror classic that reps the latest offering from Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment. Direly predictable, with candle-drip pacing and a pervasive unpleasantness, pic arrives at a fortuitous moment given the box-office power of gory genre fare. But an R rating, the lack of an obvious “Amityville”-type hook and heavy opening-weekend competition from “Kingdom of Heaven” should keep business for “House” at the level of a solid, but unspectacular sideshow attraction.

While such earlier Dark Castle productions as “House on Haunted Hill” and “Thirteen Ghosts” drew on recognizable Hollywood character actors and embraced the pulpy, tongue-in-cheek spirit of the company’s namesake — horror impresario William Castle — “House of Wax” makes a clear bid for the less discriminating teen and twentysomething crowd.

Two carloads of college students are traveling from Gainesville to Baton Rouge to attend a high-profile college football game. Ambitious Carly (“24” hottie Elisha Cuthbert) is already planning for her upcoming move to Manhattan, much to the dismay of her small-town boyfriend, Wade (Jared Padalecki).

Also along for the ride are Carly’s friend Paige (Hilton), who hasn’t yet told her African-American boyfriend, Blake (Robert Ri’chard), that she might be pregnant; wisecracking Dalton (the amusing Jon Abrahams); and Carly’s delinquent twin brother, Nick (“One Tree Hill” hunk Chad Michael Murray), freshly paroled from prison.

When the trip takes longer than expected, merry sextet opts to camp out in a deserted field. Next morning, they discover their campsite is located next to a dumping ground for animal carcasses. (So that’s where that smell was coming from!).Yet, when Wade discovers his car has a busted fan belt, nobody seems to consider it unwise for him to stay behind to fix it.

As the others journey on to the game (only to turn around after hitting a massive traffic jam), Wade and Carly hitch a ride into the nearby town of Ambrose, where they stumble upon the titular wax museum and its uncannily lifelike sculptures.

As viewers of the 1953 “House of Wax” (or, for that matter, its 1933 predecessor, “Mystery of the Wax Museum”) already know, there’s a reason for the eerie verisimilitude of the “statues,” and the villains, a pair of separated-at-birth, Siamese-twin brothers (both played by Brian Van Holt) don’t take too kindly to visitors.

Any similarity to earlier “Wax” pics ends there, with twin-brother screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes and director Jaume Collet-Serra quickly descending into slasher-movie cliches.

The characters are about as intelligent as their waxen alter-egos, making it impossible to care too much about what happens to them. Amid flat, one-dimensional performances, Murray exhibits a live-wire intensity in a few scenes that suggests he may be one to watch.

In the pic’s press notes, Collet-Serra, a successful musicvideo and commercials director making his feature debut, talks about his desire to create “an unstructured, almost documentary feel.” Onscreen, this amounts to an inordinately long set-up — nothing even remotely scary happens for the first two reels — followed by a series of rote (if explicitly violent) murders thatare more a testament to the talent of the pic’s makeup artists than Collet-Serra’s directorial prowess.

By far the pic’s most inspired idea is that the House of Wax is actually made of wax itself, along with every piece of furniture in it. That set — and, indeed, the entire ghost town of Ambrose — is brought to vivid life by ace production designer Graham “Grace” Walker.

But pic lacks a distinctive visual style, employing the same palette of drab yellows, greens and blacks that have become de rigeur thanks to the success of the “The Ring” and the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake.

One element that seems more progressive than it probably should in the year 2005 is the refreshing lack of attention drawn to Paige and Blake’s interracial relationship. In most other respects, however, pic is decidedly retro, employing the moralistic tone of a great many horror outings of the 1970s and ’80s, in which only the relatively virtuous survive.

Popular on Variety

House of Wax

Australia-U.S.

Production: A Warner Bros. release presented in association with Village Roadshow Pictures of a Dark Castle Entertainment production. Produced by Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Susan Levin. Executive producers, Herbert W. Gains, Steve Richards, Bruce Berman. Co-producer, Richard Mirisch. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Screenplay, Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes; story, Charles Belden.

Crew: Camera (Atlab Queensland color, Technicolor prints), Stephen Windon; editor, Joel Negron; music, John Ottman; production designer, Graham "Grace" Walker; supervising art director, Brian Edmonds; art director, Nicholas McCallum; set designers, Axel Bartz, Richard Harrison, Paula Whiteway, David Nimmo; set decorator, Bev Dunn; costume designers, Alex Alvarez, Graham Purcell; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Paul "Salty" Brincat; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Richard Adrian; visual effects supervisor, John Breslin; visual effects, Photon VFX; special makeup effects, KNB EFX Group; associate producer, Erik Olsen; assistant director, Jamie Crooks; second unit director, Billy Burton; second unit camera, Marc Spicer; casting, Mary Gail Artz, Barbara Cohen; Australian casting, Tom McSweeney. Reviewed at the Chinese 6, Los Angeles, April 22, 2005. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- Special Screening.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 107 MIN.

With: Carly - Elisha Cuthbert Nick - Chad Michael Murray Bo/Vincent - Brian Van Holt Paige - Paris Hilton Wade - Jared Padalecki Dalton - Jon Abrahams Blake - Robert Ri'chard

More Film

  • Alexander Skarsgard in the front rowGiorgio

    Film News Roundup: Alexander Skarsgard Joins 'Passing' With Tessa Thompson

    In today’s film news roundup, Taryn Manning, Shane West and Alexander Skarsgård have new roles, and Warner Bros. unveils a modernized logo. CASTINGS Alexander Skarsgård has signed on to join Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and André Holland in “Passing.” The film marks Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut and is based on a screenplay that Hall adapted [...]

  • Spike Lee

    Spike Lee to Direct Hip-Hop Love Story 'Prince of Cats'

    Spike Lee will direct a big-screen version of the hip-hop love story “Prince of Cats,” based on Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel. Legendary has been developing the project with Janet and Kate Zucker of Zucker Productions. Lee, who won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” will also re-write the “Prince of Cats” script with [...]

  • DOLEMITE IS MY NAME!, 2019, DOL_Unit_06284.RAF

    'Dolemite Is My Name' Writer Larry Karaszewski Recalls 10-Year Journey to Make Rudy Ray Moore Biopic

    “Harriet” writer-director Kasi Lemmons was in a reflective mood at Tuesday night’s “Behind the Scene” event at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West. The biopic, starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been receiving buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s Lemmons’ [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Abrams Artists Agency Signs Writers Guild Deal

    In a major triumph for the Writers Guild of America, the Abrams Artists Agency has signed the WGA’s Code of Conduct, allowing the agency to return to representing WGA members again. Chairman Adam Bold made the announcement Wednesday, saying that the agency wants to put its clients back to work. He also noted WGA West [...]

  • Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis

    Holocaust Experts Debate 'Jojo Rabbit' at Museum of Tolerance Screening

    With its comedic, cartoonish portrayal of Nazis, Taika Waititi’s satirical Hitler youth tale “Jojo Rabbit” has polarized critics and audiences alike. And that division continued to be stirred at Tuesday night’s screening of the film at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where Liebe Geft, director of the museum, moderated a heated panel discussion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content