House of Wax (2005)

It’s very, very rare that a horror movie is so bad that even I can’t enjoy it. While supposedly “cerebral” fare like White Noise and Hide & Seek falls flat on its face due to its own inability to make sense or be scary, slasher movies don’t tend to suffer from that. They’re formulaic as all hell – hot teenagers drive to the middle of nowhere, get drunk, have sex, get cut up – but because everyone already knows exactly what’s going to happen, it’s easy for modern filmmakers to give the genre a postmodern twist. Obviously the best example of this is Scream, though Cabin Fever comes pretty close. By demonstrating a self-conscious awareness of the rules of the form, these movies successfully subvert the expectations of the audience, breaking the rules, paying homage to earlier horror classics, and providing a couple of real scares.

House of Wax, on the other hand, observes all the horror conventions, adhering to the letter of the law and utterly failing to provide anything interesting or new – or funny, or scary, or even vaguely entertaining. The titular House is a pretty accurate metaphor for the movie: it looks okay, if ever so slightly off-colour, on the surface, but under a very thin layer, is full of rotting, horrific old crap.

Okay. So some rich teenagers set out to go to a football match miles away. They don’t have tickets or anywhere to stay for the night except, rather inexplicably, some tents, and only a GPRS system to guide them. Predictably, they get lost. The gender balance is a little off for a slasher movie: the moronic group is composed of Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and her boyfriend Wade (the actually rather attractive Jared Padalecki), her “evil” twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray, and dude, I’ve seen A Cinderella Story and I’m not buying this bad boy act, at all), his wannabe gay life-partner Dalton (Jon Abrahams), her best friend Paige (Paris Hilton) and her boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri’chard, and no, I didn’t mistype that, he really does have an utterly inappropriate apostrophe there). There are already tensions in the group, as Nick is recently out of jail and hates everyone. The thing is, I just had to look up everyone’s names on the IMDB, because it’s impossibly difficult to care. Through ham-fisted overuse of the exact same “suspenseful” music as every other horror movie since the beginning of time makes abundantly clear, this movie is not going to end well. It’s going to end in pain and death and slaughter, and in the face of that, who gives a flying fuck about character development?

Finding themselves in the middle of nowhere, they decide to camp out for the night. A scary truck appears from nowhere, hangs around for a bit doing nothing, and then leaves. For no apparent reason. Because this is America, and the teenagers need to be set up as morally reprehensible, everyone has more than one beer and therefore sleeps through almost the entirety of the next day. When they eventually drag their asses up, the fan belt in one of the cars is broken, but luckily there’s a handy redneck on hand to drive Wade and Carly to the nearest garage for a new one, while everyone else goes to the game. He’s ineptly menacing enough that the couple soon decide they’d rather walk, which is the first, last, and only good decision they make in the entire movie.

The town is deserted, as is the way of backwater horror movie towns. Wade spots the House of Wax and wants to go look, but Carly leads him instead to the church where they interrupt a funeral, because they’re rude. One of the mourners comes outside and tells them he’ll meet them at the garage in half an hour to sell them a fan belt. 45 minutes later, they’ve broken into the garage and are on the way to stealing a fan belt when he turns up and offers to take them to his house. I’m going into such detail because I want to really convey how utterly stupid, ignorant and downright rude these kids are. Leaving Carly in the truck, Wade goes into the house to use the toilet and metamorphoses into the slowest man in the world. Instead of using the toilet and getting out of there, he decides to poke around the house, opening doors and curtains and toying with everything he finds, because he’s stupid, ignorant and rude. Carly, meanwhile, has turned on the engine of the car for the radio, found nothing worth listening to, beeped the horn, and got out of the car, because she too is stupid, ignorant and rude, before noticing that this is the truck from last night. Dun dun dun! Throughout the course of the movie, and I know no-one saw this one coming, all the kids except the twins get massacred. See, it turns out the whole “good twin/evil twin” schtick was particularly relevant, because the brothers who created the House of Wax are also twins – something which was set up by the opening sequence, which was surprisingly well-filmed, and I’m actually wondering if all the mysterious, never-quite-showing-people’s-faces stuff was so that when it came out that Nick and Carly were twins, maybe you’d think it was about them. Maybe. That’d make Carly the evil twin, though. Anyway, not only are the murderous brothers twins, but they’re Siamese twins, which explains the hideous, waxy face of the scarier one. There’s a painfully awful moment when, hiding from the half-face brother, Carly pushes a wax cot, complete with conjoined twins, in front of the door: in slicing his way into the room, the brother slices through the wax babies, separating them exactly where the real twins were separated. Gag.

Although Paris Hilton’s death scene is pretty cool – she puts up a shockingly decent fight, considering; can’t act, though – none of the others are particularly great. Wade’s death, actually, is thoroughly incomprehensible, and to return to the vomit for a minute: still alive, Wade is coated in wax then placed in front of the piano. Somehow, a layer of wax a couple of centimetres thick prevents him from escaping – or, maybe there were some paralytic drugs involved, I can’t quite be convinced to care. Anyway, Dalton breaks in, finds him, and decides to help him escape this ridiculously thin prison by PULLING HIS FACE OFF. There’s no way to describe this idiocy. He tries to pull the wax off, I guess, but somehow being coated in wax makes your body more liable to fall apart (as evidenced by the arm snapping off in the chapel, as if Carly is really strong enough to break bone and pull an arm off) and some skin comes off. Apologising profusely, he CONTINUES TO PULL WADE’S FACE OFF. The caps lock is, in fact, necessary – I gave myself whiplash in the cinema by diving too fast to bury my face in my friend’s shoulder. People’s faces shouldn’t be pulled off. Later shots show Wade’s jaw and teeth completely exposed, and excuse me while I vomit everything I’ve ever eaten. It’s pretty reminiscent of Karen’s decayed face in the shed in Cabin Fever, thinking about it, and there are a couple of other moments that’re also vaguely reminiscent of earlier, better movies – though whether these are intentional, or whether I was just so bored I was looking for stimulation anywhere other than the movie, it’s hard to know. The way Elisha Cuthbert was manoeuvred into the obligatory Texas Chainsaw Massacre white vest might have been the most creative thing House of Wax managed; when Paris Hilton is your movie’s voice of reason, you know you’re in trouble.

I think I might actually be off horror movies for a little bit now. House of Wax is just another pointless, pointless movie about stupid teenagers getting butchered; much like Wrong Turn, with which it may now share the honour of being “The Worst Movie I Have Seen”, it’s just too hard to care.

IMDB link

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