Wax on, wax off

House of Wax

Paris attempts to recover her clean reputation after the XXX home-movie by taking a role in a wholesome, family Viking opera.

Paris attempts to recover her clean reputation after the XXX home-movie by taking a role in a wholesome, family Viking opera.

Rated 2.0

Paris Hilton and friends almost serve up a decent slasher flick with House of Wax, a by-name-only remake of the 3-D classic starring Vincent Price. For those who like their horror movies with lots of blood spurting, this one certainly delivers the goods. As for the narrative, it works for a while until it gets carried away with itself.

Some young adults are on their way to a big sporting event, and they decide to take a short cut, always a horror film no-no. While they’re camping and tossing a football in the middle of the night (these kids today love to throw footballs when they can’t see them), a mysterious truck pulls up and the creepy driver eyeballs them.

Come morning, a fan belt is cut in one of their cars, and they encounter a creepy hillbilly dumping carcasses in a road-kill pit. Of course, two of them hitch a ride with the hillbilly and wind up in a town that appears normal—at first.

What follows is a scary enough picture where psycho twins make mannequins out of real people and find all kinds of disgusting ways to end their lives (a blinking, decapitated head provides one of the film’s more memorable visions). The actual transformation of people into wax models is the stuff of nightmares. House of Wax is on its way to being a simple, passable horror movie until it starts going haywire with the special effects.

The House of Wax museum is a completely implausible structure where everything— including the floors, ceilings, roof and furniture—is made of wax. The thing is huge, and we’re supposed to buy the premise that a couple of screwed up twins were able to architecturally conceive and construct this thing.

Director Jaume Serra didn’t need a big museum of wax melting for his finale because the scares that take place before it are actually pretty well executed. Heck, Paris Hilton takes a javelin through the head in a fashion that would make John Carpenter proud. This film is a clear case of a writer and director not knowing to quit while they were ahead.

Performances are awful in this piece, but that’s usually acceptable in a horror pic if the scares are effective. Hilton is her glassy-eyed self, and she brings the right level of trash to the proceedings. Elisha Cuthbert is quite simply one of the best-looking people on the planet, so who really cares if she can’t act? Most of the men in this movie deliver the truly bad performances, although Chad Michael Murray has a few capable leading-man moments.

Brian Van Holt, as twin brothers Bo and Vincent, makes for decent villains. Van Holt manages a cool level of normalcy in his early moments, followed by the requisite madman traits.

House of Wax is a decent movie for about 45 minutes. The rest of it is quite bad. Paris Hilton dies real good, a moment that is likely to bring applause at most screenings of the film. By the time Cuthbert and Murray are trudging through melted wax stairs, the movie has gone completely south, and House of Wax winds up on the failed-horror-movie scrap heap.