Scream Factory Invites You to the HOUSE OF WAX [Blu-review]

Scream Factory molds a packed release and visual update for this cult horror


When their car breaks down on a road trip, six college friends are sidetracked into an eerie backwoods town. Curiosity gets the better of them when they are intrigued by its macabre House of Wax. They soon find out that the town is not what it seems, and that they must find their way out before they fall victim to its ghoulishly inventive killers.

It’s a horror staple. Kids on a road trip. Kids ignore warnings and go off-road. Kids encounter weird shit and most of them die. Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Jeepers Creepers, The Hills Have Eyes, and more, have well mined this horror sub-genre that has been culturally fueled by huge swathes of the American landscape and the isolated homesteads and communities that are strewn across it. House of Wax is another of these, technically a remake of the 1953 Vincent Price film, it feels far more akin to another road trip horror entry, 1979’s Tourist Trap, a far more warped and unnerving experience. In short, Carly (Elisha Cuthbert), Nick (Chad Michael Murray), Wade (Jared Padaleki), Dalton (Jon Abrahams), Paige (Paris Hilton), and Blake (Robert Richard) are crossing the country to attend a football game in Louisiana. After camping overnight, they find their car sabotaged, and venturing to the nearby town of Ambrose in search of help. Empty, aside from a local mechanic, with a local tourist attraction (the titular House of Wax) looming large over the town, with its exhibits spreading across the community. As they explore, they find that the place they came to for assistance holds some terrifying secrets.

House of Wax spends time to build up a mystery around the missing residents, and a shadowy figure that haunts the town. This aspect that drives things along and allows for some decent investigative work, and epiphanies for the cast. The first portion of the film is rather laggy, bogged down by an ungainly effort to sketch out the characters, but the film eventually picks up plenty of zip, cumulating in a fiery finale. Once he picks up the pace, Director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, Orphan) delivers some novel kills, fun set-pieces (the climax and an earlier sequence in a movie theater stand out), and an unnerving atmosphere, aided by some impressive production design. Ambrose is a town frozen in time, a throwback to another era. The small details from Americana, to family life, to the creep of the eerie wax figures, give the look and feel plenty of depth, qualities highlighted all the more with this new transfer. Some of the CGI is a bit iffy, but the practical effects still look great. House of Wax also serves as a rather interesting time capsule into an era where horror was starting to tilt into more visceral fare, with films such as Hostel and Saw. It remains admirably true to the slasher genre, and is certainly less violent than some of its peers around this time, but there’s enough here to make you a little squeamish, from something as elaborate as the waxy conversion process, to the simplicity of a situation involving fingers and a metal grate.

Upon release, and still even now, the film feels (unfairly) maligned due to its recruitment of Paris Hilton to the main cast. A clear publicity stunt after her ‘fame’ was riding high in the run up to the release, but frankly, she’s no worse than hundreds of other wooden actors that have graced numerous horror films over the years. Most of the cast are also lumbered with rather clunky characters, although with Elisha Cuthbert (The Girl Next Door, Happy Endings) emerges pretty unscathed, admirably committing to the escalating chaos. Despite this, and the need for a little tightening of the runtime, House of Wax remains a fun and creative slasher, worthy of its cult status.

The Package

The release features a all new 2K restoration from an interpositive. The overall transfer is good, certainly the best presentation I’ve seen. Detail is above average, lending to a better appreciation of some of the production design and aesthetic touches. Colors are well represented, grain is healthy and natural, with the picture leaning a little to the dark side. Some of the iffier CGI is all the more obvious with the higher detail on show, but it’s an unavoidable consequence of a better looking transfer. Extra features are up to the high standards you’d expect from Shout! Factory:

  • NEW Die, My Darling — an interview with actress Paris Hilton: Running just over 8 minutes, Hilton runs through the whole process of her recruitment/involvement with the film, experience on set, and some of her requests when it came to her final scene
  • NEW The Tale of Blake and Paige — an interview with actor Robert Ri’chard: The interview largely revolves about his experiences working with Hilton, but he shares some tale about producer Joel Silver, and about filming in Australia
  • NEW Organ Grinder — an interview with composer John Ottman: Recorded online, Ottman explains his desire to assemble a full orchestra for the score and how he added some of himself into the work due to limited funds
  • NEW To Me, They Live and Breathe — an interview with makeup effects artist Jason Baird: Another online interview, it’s a short but solid look at the prosthetics, figures, masks, etc, used in the film, the locations used and built, and a catastrophic accident on set that destroyed much of their work, forcing a rebuild
  • B-Roll and Bloopers Video Cast Commentary: Rather entertaining, more so with its split screen presentation of the cast with the footage
  • From Location: Joel Silver Reveals the House of Wax: Silver bigging up the main cast as “stars of tomorrow” to keep an eye on
  • Wax On: The Design of House of Wax: Fun but short look at the assembly of the town and its wax inhabitants
  • The House Built on Wax: The Visual Effects of House of Wax: Perhaps the feature that would most benefit from being longer. A rundown of the practival and CGI effects used to realize the film, with notable contributions from miniatures supervisor Greg Tuckwell, visual effects supervisor John Breslin, and director Jaume Collet-Serra
  • Alternate Opening: Another take featuring another ‘kill’
  • Gag Reel
  • Vintage interviews with cast and crew from the electronic press kit
  • Vintage featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

Maligned on release, largely over its tilt into social media and celebrity, House of Wax has nestled into being a cult classic over the past decade. Shout Factory’s release further burnishes the credentials of, and appreciation for this fun slasher and time capsule for mid-2000s horror.

House of Wax is available via Shout Factory now

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