HOUSE OF WAX - Blu-ray review

House of Wax is a tourist attraction best ignored.


There are things in life that no person should have to sit through. Uber Producers Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis and Director Jaume Collet-Sierra's loose remake of the 1953 Vincent Price film of the same name and inspired by other films of the genre. There are films that are just plain painful and "House of Wax" is a fine example. One of the movies big drawing points was Paris Hilton. That alone should suggest to just not do it and watch something else. Horror movies frequently venture into the bad movie territory and we have all seen a few of these ‘bad' horror films that are classic in their badness. "House of Wax" isn't bad enough to be entertaining in its badness. It is also not good enough to ever watch again.

Starring the lovely Elisha Cuthbert as Carly Jones and Chad Michael Murray as Nick Jones, "House of Wax" lacks any starpower behind its cast to help boost interest in the film. Paris Hilton finds a director other than Rick Solomon for her latest venture and though I have not seen her earlier effort, I'm willing to bet that film may be a role better suited for the wealthy hotel heiress. You can buy a lot of things with money, but an acting career is not one of them. Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams and Robert Ri'chard are additional supporting actors to help provide gruesome death sequences. The films villain is embodied by "S.W.A.T." star Brian Van Holt. Cuthbert and Murray are decent as the siblings who are faced with escaping from their gruesome pursuer. There was one memorable performance in the film and that was Damon Herriman as a back-country roadkill collector that would have fit in beautifully in "Deliverance."

Where the original "House of Wax" focused on a singular structure in New York City, this remade "House of Wax" borrows elements from 1979's "The Tourist Trap" and other films to expand its storyline and would have been more aptly titled "Town of Wax." Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Paris Hilton and a couple of other young actors portray a band of students who set out on a road trip to attend an important football game. Spreading their trip over a three day span, they pitch tent in a clearing in rural America, a mistake that will eventually cost most of them their lives. An encounter with a pickup truck begins a butterfly effect that will land them into a town just fifteen miles away for a fan belt to repair one of their cars, but ultimately introduce them to the film's House of Wax.

A horrible stench (a great way to describe the film) pulls the young campers towards a road kill pit and the discovery of the decayed-toothed young man who has placed them their. The redneck (Damon Herriman) offers to drive them to a nearby town to purchase a fan belt, but the road only goes so far due to a washout. Carly (Cuthbert) and her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki) become squeamish of the nature of the odd road kill collector and decide to walk the rest of the way to the town. Upon their arrival, they find the town empty and nobody is manning the local gas station. They find townspeople in the town's church and the owner of the gas station confronts them and asks them to wait thirty minutes before he can help them. They take this time to investigate a House of Wax located near the gas station.

A frantic cell phone call from Carly delivers more of her friends to the town for more carnage. Dalton Chapman (Jon Abrahams) and Nick Jones (Murray) bring Blake's (Robert Ri'chard) sport utility vehicle to find out what happened to Carly and Wade. One by one, the films villains begin to kill the young travelers. The deaths tend to be gruesome and nicely done, providing perhaps the only redeeming quality of "House of Wax." Carly discovers a gruesome truth about the small town – the townsfolk are all wax sculptures whose skeletal structure is the remains of a person trapped under the wax. Bo (Brian Van Holt) has been collecting victims and his brother Vincent (Brian Van Holt) sculpts them into artistic statues eerily reminiscent of how they appeared in life.

The flat acting and less than inspiring storyline made "House of Wax" a tough film to sit through. Borrowing elements from a number of pictures, "House of Wax" is so cliché ridden and familiar that the film delivers no interesting surprises and no shocks or scares. Rarely can a horror movie be considered boring, but when every death is loudly telegraphed before the final gruesome act and when each plot twist is fully expected, a horror film becomes just that – boring. Each character that dies onscreen crawls or evades their killer for too long of time. I found myself wanting the killer to just "Get on with it" and simply happy the person was dead and not impressed with the manner in which that person died. Paris Hilton's death was so long and drawn out, that by the time her ‘ho-hum' death happens, you are just happy the spoiled socialite is dead.

I have seen much worse than "House of Wax," but these films are typically of a much smaller budget and without any backing from a major Hollywood Studio. Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis have been releasing a number of horror films under their Dark Castle Entertainment label. Many of these have been remakes, but some of the films have been quite entertaining – "Gothika" is one example. Silver was the king of action films and Zemeckis has been responsible for many great films as well. With their eye for quality or entertaining cinema, one wonders how a dud like "House of Wax" was ever greenlighted. Under the watchful eye of a different director and perhaps a tighter screenplay and more inspired performances would have saved this from sub-mediocrity, but in its present state, "House of Wax" is a tourist attraction best ignored.


"House of Wax" delivers its second performance on high definition video with its Blu-Ray debut. The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is mastered in 1080p VC-1 compression and though the actual film is not much to look at, the picture quality is not bad looking. "House of Wax" is not as sharp or impressive as the majority of films released on either format, there are hardly any major issues with the visual presentation. Much of the film takes place in the shadows and the dark of night. There are a few daytime sequences, but these are more-or-less intended as exposition or devices to speed the plot along. All of the killing and action in "House of Wax" takes place in low lighting and with a lesser amount of detail and sharpness than a film that spends more of its time in bright lighting. The resulting treatment of the photographic elements of "House of Wax" results in lower detail and less vibrant colors than many other next-gen video releases.

The source materials used for "House of Wax" are strong. There are no flaws of faults to be found in the transfer. I did not see any dirt, scratches and hardly any film grain, even in the very dark and poorly lit nighttime interior shots. As mentioned previously, the level of detail is not the strongest and this is a film that looks closer to an upconverted DVD than it does a Blu-Ray disc. A few scenes are fairly detailed, but when things start moving along quickly on screen in these low-light moments, many details are lost and it becomes a struggle to visualize exactly what is going on in the scene. Colors are not nearly as bright and colorful as many films and are slightly desaturated in "House of Wax." In one scene, Jon Abrahams tosses on a bright yellow coat. This looks brilliant, as well as Paris Hilton's fiery red bra. The rest of the film is not as colorful. "House of Wax" is a poor movie, and its picture quality does fall flat, but this is simply because of all the dark scenes and the manner in which these scenes were filmed.


English Dolby Digital 5.1 is the primary soundtrack for "House of Wax." French and Spanish 5.1 multi-channel surround mixes are also provided. The film sounds perfectly fine. It is neither overly-aggressive nor sheepish in nature. The John Ottman score builds nicely during death sequences and sound effects help accentuate what is happening on-screen. All six channels are used throughout the picture and ambient effects nicely populate the rear speakers and stereo imaging across all channels is quite good. There are moments when the film allows the environment to perform and even when the actors and score are silent, there is something to be heard. Bass is used sparingly and is never present in great strength. Dialogue is sharp and clear, which may not be the best thing when Paris Hilton is speaking. The sound is clean and clear. It is a shame that the director did not put as much effort in as the sound design engineers.


Warner Bros. continues to impress with their continued high definition efforts and once again, all of the supplements from the standard definition DVD and the HD-DVD releases have made their way to Blu-Ray. The supplements included on "House of Wax" are nothing to scream or shriek about in either a positive or negative way. The more interesting of these extras is the B-Roll and Bloopers Video Cast Commentary with Paris Hilton, Chad Michael Murray, Elisha Cuthbert and Jared Padalecki. Paris Hilton annoys me. I've discovered that fact after watching this supplement and had I watched this before the film, I think I would have disliked "House of Wax" with even more fervor. The four discuss for nearly a half an hour their experiences making various scenes in the film and the screen is displayed in a split-screen format that shows the actors on the top portion of the screen and the action on the lower half. Isn't this video commentary one of the new features these new formats are capable of?

A number of shorter features detail the making of the film and showcase the efforts made in advertising it. From Location: Joel Silver Reveals House of Wax is a short feature where Joel Silver stages a car accident to help promote the picture when it was forthcoming. Wax On: The Design of House of Wax and The House Built on Wax: The Visual Effects of House of Wax detail how the film was made with physical effects and not special effects. From peanut butter beds to actual wax structures, "House of Wax" was a film that was very creatively made. Alternate Opening: Jennifer Killed is an interesting scene where the film's resident bad guy kills a person who is having car troubles. The effect of this deleted scene was actually pretty cool and topped any of the death scenes in the film. They should have left it in. A very short Gag Reel and a Theatrical Trailer complete the additional offerings of the "House of Wax" Blu-Ray disc.

Closing Comments:

I did not enjoy "House of Wax" in the least. I thought the film was very uninspired and lacked key elements that a horror film needs to survive. Most important of these is a requirement to contain any actual horror sequences. A few over the top effects scenes are included in the film, but each death takes so long to reach the gruesome footage, that there is no shock value. The film is also very dark and many of the fine details of these deaths are lost. The acting is flat and the actors are simply going through the motions of being in this film. The Blu-Ray disc itself does not have a stunning visual appeal, but it is serviceable. The Dolby Digital track sounds quite good and there are a number of decent supplements. Overall, this is not a film I would recommend and I am hopeful that Paris Hilton is done with trying to pursue and acting career.


Film Value