Combustible Celluloid
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With: Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams, Robert Ri'chard
Written by: Carey W. Hayes, Chad Hayes, based on a story by Charles Belden
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence, some sexual content and language
Running Time: 105
Date: 04/26/2005

House of Wax (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Teen-a Melt

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After one gets past the trendy casting of Paris Hilton, thisabove-average horror flick actually surfaces from the bloody pit ofremakes clutching a few decent ideas. Updating Charles Belden's old-timeplay and story, the plot now strands six teenagers (including ElishaCuthbert and Chad Michael Murray) in a remote town. A sadistic killer(Brian Van Holt) hacks them up and covers them in wax.

Twin screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes play with some interesting ideas regarding twin characters, as well as some squeal-inducing moments of Hitchcockian force.

Andre de Toth's excellent 1953 House of Wax included a frighteningly surreal sequence in which a fire breaks out in the museum (run by Vincent Price), licks the wax figures and melts them. The new film actually succeeds with a similarly spectacular finale, having to do with a more literal interpretation of "house of wax," that lands almost on par with its predecessor. Likewise, it effortlessly tops Michael Curtiz's static, two-strip Technicolor original, Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933).

Meanwhile, the film pays tribute to Robert Aldrich's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1965) in a bizarre, wax-figure movie theater scene.

The Hayes brothers also play with character expectations; one character begins as a nice guy and quickly turns into a weasel, while the jerk eventually redeems himself. The actors are mostly pretty faces from television, though Elisha Cuthbert (TV's "24," The Girl Next Door) has a shot at something bigger, and Paris Hilton is always fascinating, in a science experiment sort of way.

The film's only drawback comes with Jaume Collet-Serra's direction. Yet another veteran of TV commercials and music videos, Collet-Serra does the usual by shaking the camera too much, using a sickly grayish color palette and "heightening" the tension by tossing out a speed-metal song every once in a while. But he does service the script nicely and does not altogether sabotage an otherwise worthy effort.

Robert Zemeckis co-produced.

DVD Details: Warner Home Video's new DVD comes with a so-called "blooper" reel, but it's really about 24 minutes of outtakes shown at the top of the screen, while the director and his cast "analyze" them from the bottom of the screen. (Mostly, it's just laughing.) Better still is a short gag reel. Otherwise, we get the usual collection of featurettes packed with talking heads and clips and a trailer. Audio comes in English, French and Spanish, as do the optional subtitles.

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