Saturday, August 13, 2011

Waxwork II (1992)

Slap stickin' and time travelin'

This is a direct continuation from the events in the first film, though Deborah Foreman is replaced by a head-taller, not-so-look-alike Monika Schnarre as Sarah, not to mention Zach Galligan returns as Mark but looks noticeably older and gained a few pounds. After the two leave the fiery scene from the first, the animated severed hand escapes from one of the zombie sets and follows Sarah home, only to kill her abusive father, aptly wearing a scummy wife-beater. Now, a court case is being filed against her for the act, and no one believes her when the naive Sarah actually tells them the hand did it. In the meantime they find a "cartagrian time-door opener" in Mark's grandfather's secret attic that holds all kinds of strange relics, and decide to use it to find evidence for Sarah's innocence. And, of course, stumble into some adventure in the meantime.

"Waxwork II," pushing away from its title, is a sort of "Friday the 13th" TV series, meets "The Monster Squad," meets "Bill & Ted," and still manages to have some of its own distinction in the end. From Frankenstein to poltergeists to aliens to medieval black magic, the duo has to outrun, outwit and overtake evil wherever the small time contraption takes them. The last half being a place in a King Arthur-like setting where they have to stop an diabolical, shape-shifting man named Scarabis (Alexander Godunov) who's trying to take over the King of England's throne, but find themselves in predicaments of incestuous pre-arranged marriage and rat infested prisons. Definitely the coolest scene in the movie involves Mark sword fighting Scarabis back and forth between different worlds from "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "Jack the Ripper," "Nosferatu," "Godzilla" and more zombies of the "Dawn of the Dead" kind. It makes you wish they included a few more segments or stayed a while longer while at it after having to sit through the nearly throwaway medieval story that's better left up to the "Excalibur"s to flesh out a richer adventure.

"Waxwork II" is edging more on simple fun than serious challenge, which makes the picture a little light in its load. The comedy is made to be cartoonish at points--such as a bag-o-salt being thrown at the exposed ribs of Bruce Campbell's character--the bloodshed is less gory than the first and there aren't as many build ups for atmosphere rather than setting the stage for zingers. The tone slightly shifts as it gets all biblical with a universe of Cartagra being a place where good and evil battle it out in what's referred to as "God's Nintendo game." The Devil and God--though never shown--have at it with time warriors, and what those warriors do there--Mark and Sarah included--can have a detrimental effect on Earth if evil wins.

This has less mysteriousness than the first and essentially causes you think in the now, which isn't always so enthralling to put you on the edge of your seat in anticipation. This has some slapstick, the time travel idea to create fresh places and there are numerous homages given for the meantime. Nods to other films can be a great tool to hook in an audience to relive nostalgia, though this doesn't always feel like it does something more creative than what they're emulating like the first film was capable of. This is still a decent companion piece to the original film, though I've found over the years it's not as replete on its own as it could have been. The concept is definitely cool--this is just before "Army of Darkness" and even "Sliders"--though I often find myself thinking more of where to go than where the filmmakers took me.

Rating: 5.5/10

Director: Anthony Hickox (Sundown)
Stars: Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre, Bruce Campbell, Alexander Godunov
Link: IMDB

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