Film

House of Wax (2005)

Cynthia Fuchs

Carly and Wade are separated, meaning only that he is the film's first casualty.


House of Wax

Director: Jaume Collet-Sera
Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Warner Bros.
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2005-05-06

Carly (Elisha Cuthbert, erstwhile Spawn of Jack Bauer) and Paige (Paris Hilton) are supposedly best friends. They're sassy, they're giggly, and they are, within minutes, pretty dull girls, as soon as it's revealed that their primary and all-too-typical interests are their boyfriends, placid Wade (Jared Padalecki) and blandly lusty Blake (Robert Ri'chard), respectively. The couples, though, are the least of House of Wax's concerns, mere devices to get the young people into various states of undress or vulnerability.

Termed a "reimagining" of the 1953's House of Wax, which starred Vincent Price, Jaume Collet-Sera's movie only lifts the people-turned-into-wax-figures premise, then launches directly into a generic slasher flick structure, that is, pretty young people are killed off, one by one, by nefarious, deformed, and utterly brutal villains, in this case,, twin brothers Bo and Vincent (both played without much relish by Brian Van Holt). If you want to press the point, you might note that twins form something of a theme here, as Carly also has a twin brother, Nick (Chad Michael Murray), alternately angry and pouty. At film's opening, he's just returned home from jail for auto theft.

His return brings tension because, apparently, no one likes him. Carly is looking forward to her imminent escape from the small town passing for home, by going to college in the fall (it's summerish now); while Wade is less than enthusiastic about going with her, he's even less pleased that Nick is coming with them on a camping trip, with tagalong goofball Dalton (Jon Abrahams). The supposed purpose is to attend a "big game" the next day (a sold-out event, for which they plan to purchase scalped tickets), but the obvious motive is a night of co-ed drinking. And so, once they decide to stop for the night, they build a campfire, and take to drinking, smoking cigarettes, and making out (or, in the cases of Dalton and Nick, observing the making out and acting surly about it).

The next afternoon (as they wake late), in a seeming plot to prepare you for the grisly events to come, Carly and Paige go looking for the source of a foul order, whereupon Carly falls headfirst down a hillside, into pit of bloody, rotted fleshy muck, where, come to find out, a local feller named only "Roadkill" (Damon Herriman), regularly tosses decayed carcasses he's found along the, um, road.

While the kids appear somewhat nervous around Roadkill (who looks on with his tongue hanging out as Carly changes her bloody shirt, somewhat sheltered from his view by the valiant boys), she and Wade nonetheless take his offer of a ride into "town," when they discover that his Mustang's timing belt has been mysteriously ruined overnight. They don't exactly plan ahead, however, sending the other kids up to the game and imagining they'll either "catch up" or be picked up afterwards. Because Roadkill's truck reeks, however, Carly and Wade end up getting out early, offending their new friend, and -- as they wander into the strangely deserted town of Ambrose -- sealing their fates.

At this point, the film has already taken too long -- the first half's pacing is deliberate, as if the premise needs exposition. When, finally, Wade and Carly stumble on the literal "House of Wax" (a local museum featuring wax figures, wax walls, wax furniture, wax floors -- apparently the sun does not shine too fiercely in Ambrose), you're feeling ready to have their adventure over with already. Enter the killer and, by coincidence, proprietor of the garage where they hope to find their belt. No surprise: no belt, but plenty of menacing soundtrack and a ride up to the "house," where the killing starts in earnest.

Here Carly and Wade are separated, meaning only that he is the film's first casualty, while she discovers the monstrosity of their host and must now take up the Final Girl's usual routine, namely, running, losing her cell phone, and crying until Nick shows up to save her. This isn't to say Carly isn't inventive in her efforts to fight back or escape, but she does endure much abuse, including having her finger chopped off, which leaves her with a bloody stump for the rest of the film, and sitting through What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (which features an appropriately waxy looking Bette Davis), while trying -- so ridiculously -- to blend in with wax viewers at the local movie house.

The climax is predictably bloody and brutal, as well as -- sorry -- hot. To underline the film's inconsistent religious iconography, the flames are what you might call "hellish." Or maybe just low-budget. Most alarming, the movie leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image