31 Days to Scare ~ Waxwork

The Facts:

Synopsis: A wax museum owner uses his horror exhibits to unleash evil on the world.

Stars: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, David Warner, Dana Ashbrook, John Rhys-Davies

Director: Anthony Hickox

Rated: R

Running Length: 95 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Sometimes it’s OK to have fun with your horror and that’s exactly what Waxwork is most concerned with.  I remember negotiating with my parents to rent this on Pay Per View and promising allowance money to pay the rental price.  Though R-rated, my parents finally agreed (or, more likely, broke down) and allowed a viewing of this one Wednesday night when they were otherwise engaged. 

I can still vividly recall watching the film on our pull out sofa and loving how director and screenwriter Hickox put a neat spin on some classic monster themes.  Following a group of college students that make a midnight visit to a mysterious waxwork, we see them one-by-one crossing over the ropes and finding them actually in the horror scene on display.  Moreover…if you die in the scene you die in real life.  It’s a cool concept that packs a nice punch for genre fans who know their monsters.  As my film knowledge has grown, I find that in my latest viewing of Waxwork there were several more waxwork scenes that I could place in their original cinematic context. 

Ably led by Galligan, most of the cast is now forgotten but nice turns by a demure Foreman (April Fool’s Day, Valley Girl), wicked Johnson (Dr. Giggles), and creepy Warner (From Beyond the Grave) help to keep the film afloat.  Within each scenario there are a few fun performances to be found too…from a smoldering Dracula (Miles O’Keeffe) to the lascivious Marquis de Sade (J. Kenneth Campbell) everyone is on board to play their part with a winking sincerity.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the movie unspools at a leisurely pace for the first hour or so until it begins to run a bit off the tracks as it meanders toward its conclusion.  I’ve always been more responsive to the first half of the film than to it conclusion because of the finale’s ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ feeling.  Whereas the film begins with an intriguing less is more approach it suddenly flips a switch and becomes less interesting the longer it plays. 

Waxwork remains a good example of clever filmmaking with a hip slant.  It’s a bit dated now, yes, and some of the effects (especially some awful miniature work near the end) are musty but it gets high points for coming out of the gate strong even though it finishes its run with a little bit of a limp.

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