Saturday, August 13, 2011

Waxwork (1988)

What won't kill you, will only make you...waxier

This is a horror-comedy that's incredibly tongue-in-cheek to the point of poking fun at other thought-to-be sacrilegious horror films and even itself while at it. "Waxwork" is an '80s version of "House of Wax" meets "House of Frankenstein" where all the famous cinematic monsters and more are combined into an experience that gives an assorted buffet of the macabre. It has some trendy tunes, hairdos, phrases and clothing, not to mention makeshift acting, that makes it feel exactly like '88, but that's not to say it doesn't hold up still due to being persistently fun because there are just so many subjects inventively dabbled at once than being merely reference points.

Two college ladies--one seductive, the other reserved--are taking a neighborly stroll when they notice a discreet and ominous building with the sign "Waxwork" that they've never seen before. Suddenly an odd looking man appears, later named Mr. Lincoln (David Warner), with multi-colored dress and invites them to a private midnight showing that includes their friends. They don't know what to expect but show up anyway with two other guys--one spoiled rich, the other token sarcastic--and meet a midget butler at the front door and a tall man who can't get orders right. Seems a joke, right? Yeah, that's what they thought.

In a large showroom they find roped off sections with an assortment of life-like wax statues ranging from Frankenstein, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, werewolves, axe-murderers, aliens, mummies and even Marquis de Sade. Soon enough some of the observers turn victim when they want to get a closer look at the set pieces and end up getting transported into a changed world where it comes alive. Inside the locked in portal they have to relive the final horror of the depicted waxwork set and then end up being a permanent fixture with none the wiser looking on. After splitting up, the rich kid and prude lose sight of their two friends and are told they left early. Suspicious, Sarah (Deborah Foreman) and Mark (Zach Galligan)--with the help of detectives and Mark's grandfather--find out that Mr. Lincoln had a greater, far more diabolical plan in motion than just enclosing their friends bodies with wax.

"Waxwork" has gags, gore and a sense of adventure. This isn't scary, but it is still pretty gruesome at times with make-up effects and plays on a certain atmosphere that still rolls in the fog, shadows and a gravitating score over top when calls for it. Part of the tone is going for mock theatrics, such as an over-the-top sound effect with just a door opening or someone else not taking a spooky scene at first seriously, that is until they see red. This has some slap stick gags, such as a man tied to a table with the flesh of his leg missing but the nerves exposed and then rats and other people accidentally falling on it. It's ambitious to say the least, but manages to maintain a steady balance to rope a viewer deep down into a well of escapism dwells. Even with all of its homages to every other genre pic under the full moon, it still feels its own experience enough to be more than just a short-lived gimmick for the times.

Rating: 8/10

Director: Anthony Hickox
Stars: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, David Warner
Link: IMDB

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