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Waxwork (1988)

Review

Author
Date
11-16-2002
Comments

Terror unfolds for six school friends once they are invited to a hush-hush midnight showing of a new Waxwork in town. The museum is relatively homage to horror's innovative classic monsters, and more. Something other than just wax is behind the shocking and realistic displays within the beautiful mansion-like Waxwork. When 2 of their friends turn up missing the night of the private showing, Mark (Zach Galligan, Gremlins) and Sarah (Deborah Foreman, April Fool's Day, Real Genius) grow to be keen on the likely fact that something happened to them while inside the museum; and they end up digging up more clues about the mysterious owner (David Warner, The Omen) than they had ever imagined. In tradition of the masterpieces (Night of the Living Dead, House of Wax, Little Shop of Horrors) and with respect to classic horror icons (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and The Mummy), Waxwork offers you to stop on by and give afterlife a try.

Waxwork has a touch of everything for practically any horror enthusiast to enjoy. Plus, it has the camp feel of the customary 80's horror film, with awful hair and fashion to balance it all out adequately. If you are a fan of werewolves, Waxwork has it. If you like the bloodsucking thrill of vampires, there are plenty of fangs to go around. If ancient tales of the mummy get you going, then look no more. Zombies, Jack the Ripper, Phantom of the Opera, ooh la la! Waxwork carries references to all of the favorites from beginning to end. And to top all of that off, the movie has a decent flow of gore, especially in its unrated format.

Sadly, this film went unnoticed to a strong extent during its theatrical run in 1988 (not even cracking a million in theaters); but was given a great deal of praise from"Fangoria," "Horror Fan Magazine" and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. One would wonder why. It seems genre fans should have flocked out to see this film, above all because 1988 was the year that inane sequels to Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween were all starting to poison the silver screen at the same time. It still took a few years for the majority of cinemagoers to begin searching for something innovative. And by then, Waxwork had already been taken off new release shelves at the local video store, and was placed in the horror section. Probably picked up a few times by customers, and put back down in the wrong place to be forgotten forever.

Waxwork has a simplistic, but unique plot. The thought-to-be wax monsters behind the displays are waiting, eagerly for a victim. No, they cannot move about and jump off of their stages to attack. Instead, they appear extremely intriguing to the viewer. So intriguing that the hapless onlooker just simply must step into the display for a closer look. The only trouble in doing that is that they are transported into the world that was just seconds ago merely a wax presentation to them. A short story unfolds for all of them to work characters into, and if they truly believe what is going on it could be the cause of their demise. There are 18 displays inside the Waxwork, and they all need a victim. And if this occurs, all hell could break loose; therefore world termination could be right around the corner.

Some stunning and ghastly scenery lives on the stages within the luxurious wax museum. The camera runs over all of the displays like the viewer's eyes are actually there behind Mark and his friends. Imagery of a lady by her car with a gas pump nozzle shoved down her throat and a display of the Marquis De Sade with his whip cracked and ready is what sets aside the fact that this is a horror-comedy. The film has its serious moments in brief doses, but Waxwork works freely off of humor and cheese. The film carries all of the greatest one-liners, and some really funny death scenes that are almost impossible to snicker at.

Pretty good performances from the leads Zach Galligan and Deborah Foreman, probably the best they have ever had the chance to present. Zach plays Mark, and at the beginning of the film one might think that he is a character to hate. His opening sequences hint that he may be just another self-important rich teenager that will never have to work a day in his life. He is also a momma's boy against his own will. Mark's artificial bad attitude is not entirely his fault. He has just lost his girlfriend China (Michelle Johnson, Dr. Giggles) to a jock from school and has to deal with her raving about her muscle-bound boyfriend constantly. He also has to hear about how it is his fault he doesn't have her anymore. This is unavoidable, because they are both part of the same small circle of friends.

Deborah Foreman plays Sarah, the cute little virgin girl who has a hidden passion for pain. She comes off as the girl who has basically never done a daring thing in her life. It is apparent that she has strong feelings towards Mark, but she is unsure if she wants to pursue them. Her schoolgirl uniform wearing persona is quickly vanished after she steps over into the Marquis De Sade display, however. She becomes a virgin and harlot at the same time, and seemingly wants to be beat to death by the orgasmic whip of Marquis.

The FX are handled by Bob Keen (Dog Soldiers, Hellraiser), and handled well at that. The monsters in this film look excellent, even if totally unlike their original aspect. Two of the best sequences are from the werewolf display and the Night of the Living Dead homage (which is re-titled Nutty Zombies from Hell in this movie). An amazing idea was keeping the Night of the Living Dead scene in black and white, which makes the feeling very lovable and familiar. Picture Romero's classic exactly, but with gore. The blood in Waxwork is spilt thickly and suitably. Worthy mentions would be a guy getting ripped in half from the head down by a lycanthrope, wheelchair victim having his head pulled off by the same werewolf, and a poor Egyptian guy getting his head flattened like a pancake by the foot of the Mummy. No lie, these scenes are ghastly, but produce some of the largest laughs the film has to offer.

This is one of the best films director and writer Anthony Hickox ever came up with. Waxwork spawned a truly decent but less atmospheric direct to video sequel 5 years later. This is recommended to fans of horror comedies (Gremlins, Mad Monster Party, Sundown, Monster Squad) and to fans of classic horror as well. It is totally worth a purchase, but hasn't received DVD treatment as of yet. Until that glorious day occurs, it is well worth a rental for a drunken weekend with a roomful of friends. Enjoy.

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