Sunday, April 10, 2011

Movie Review: Waxwork (1988)

Waxwork is yet another movie about a wax museum. Much different than House of Wax, obviously, but a fun story and a good time to watch.

Mmmm, plot: A group of college students are invited to the exclusive opening of the Waxwork museum by the strange magician proprietor. The wax displays all contain iconic monsters and gruesome death scenes, and also have the power to transport the viewer to the world that they portray. If you are killed in the display, you die in real life and become a part of the display forever. When his friends go missing inside the displays, one of the kids is determined to find out the truth about the man who runs the place.

Waxwork is not a perfect movie, but it is totally off the chain. A completely rad, tubular horror comedy that could only have come out of the 80s. Indeed, this is one of the reasons I love that time period so much - exploitative horror was kind of  gone but sophisticated horror was yet to come. In between, we got movies like this. Which is awesome. I only wish I had been a teenager or something in that time so I could have grown up with all these movies, instead of crazily trying to play catch-up now in my 20s.

I wasn't really expecting that much gore or any real excitement from this movie, but most of it was a pleasant surprise. Some of the kills toward the end happen mostly offscreen - disappointing, yes, but there are some earlier scenes that are worth checking out. When China enters the world of the vampire, she eats raw meat at a banquet, and then stumbles upon the body of the victim used for dinner. He's tied to a table with most of the flesh from his legs missing. Yum. There's also people being ripped apart - always nice - and a midget being fed to a huge Little Shop of Horrors plant. You gotta love that.

Everybody's favorite part is probably the Night of the Living Dead scene. The main guy gets thrown into the zombie display and he's transported to a a black and white filmed cemetery, being chased by rotting zombies reminiscent of the classic film. The camera work is even like NOTLD, with lots of low angles and such that identify it.

There are tons of references to other horror films here that I really don't need to repeat them. Classic monsters abound, and there is also a cute little homage to the hand with a mind of its own from Evil Dead II. I only wish that we had gotten a better look at all the displays because I know I probably missed some good stuff. Only a few of the monsters and their displays are really highlighted and that's a bummer. I really wanted to see what was going on with the one where the guy has a gas pump shoved down a girl's throat.

What I don't get about the movie is Lincoln's whole set-up and plan for his wax museum. So the whole complicated story is this: Lincoln took some kind of trinket from 18 of the most evil people in the world from all different times in history, used them in his displays, and then needed another 18 people to go into them get killed and complete the displays. Once this was accomplished all of the evil people would come to life again and create chaos or whatever, which I guess is what he wanted.

What doesn't really make sense here (at least to me) is that his displays contain some known figures from history, like the Marquis de Sade, but most of them are fictional monsters, like vampires and werewolves. Although there have been movies that mix the monsters, I've always been of the pure mind that these monsters have their own worlds with their own rules and mythos. Not a big deal, though. Kinda weird however that Lincoln would consider a mummy one of the most evil people ever and not like, you know, Hitler or something.

The climax is fun and hilarious. The two main people whose names I can't remember decide to finally burn down the Waxworks and hopefully stop Lincoln's plan. They don't succeed before Lincoln can find two more victims, and all holy hell breaks loose when the monsters come to life. Wheelchair guy and a huge group of people storm in and they all get into a knock-down-drag-out that is freaking gut-busting.

David Warner as Lincoln was the only really recognizable face to me, only because he's in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Omen. Michelle Johnson as China looks vaguely familiar but I can't place her and it's going to bug me all day. There is the occasional cheesily delivered line but it all adds to what is an almost perfect combination of horror and comedy. The scene where the nerdy girl is being whipped by de Sade - and apparently really enjoying it - is a bit awkward and goes on for a bit too long. The girl playing Sarah is very good in this scene however. Wouldn't be surprised if she went on to have a great porn career after this.

Again, not the greatest movie, but it's still rad.


  1. You didn't recognize Zach Galligan? He was the star of both 'Gremlins' films, as well as latter day crap like 'Cyborg 3' and 'Legion of the Dead.'

    As far as Sarah goes, she would go on to NOT appear in 'Waxwork 2' and be replaced with a tall blonde. Continuity is for losers!

    Aside from that, I freaking love 'Waxwork' and it's sequel. I own the Double-Feature DVD, which are apparently really hard to find now. I guess I'd better not lose it!

    1. I am also a harcore fan. If I recall correctly, two of the actors moved on to Twin Peaks fame. I do not remember the names, but the original Sarah would move on to become Laura Palmer as well as playing a relative. The first victim, the hilarious guy in the werewolf scene also played a leading Twin Peaks role. I've seen part one countless times, but felt part two strayed a little too much from the original.

  2. This is one of my favorite childhood movies!!!

    My husband had never seen it so I made him watch it and now he loves it as well.

  3. Oh yeah, the Gremlins guy! Can't believe I didn't recognize him!

  4. I love both Waxwork movies but it has been awhile since I've seen them. From what I remember, they seemed to be trying for scary with part 1 but ended up pretty funny. As far as I'm concerned part 2 is all comedy. PLUS Bruce Campbell!!!! I, too, bought the DVD 2 pack awhile back. Sounds like it's time to break it out!

  5. the 2 Waxwork movies were 2 of the first horror movies I've ever seen. Sadly I can't remember much about them. Need to rewatch, thanx for the reminder! :)

    btw: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!