We’re now making our way back to the new Vestron Video Collector’s Edition series from Lionsgate as just a couple weeks ago they released the third entry – a double feature of Waxworks 1 and 2, two movies I had never even heard of before. I have a soft spot for that terrible House of Wax remake that is somehow already over a decade old because Father Time is a cruel asshole, so I was up for some classic wax museum shenanigans. It turns out though, that is not at all what this movie is.
It does open up with a guy getting his head shoved into a fireplace with literally no explanation, so you know very quickly that you are likely in good hands with this one.
The main guy from Gremlins and his rich asshole friends make their way to the local Waxworks one evening after being invited by the guy who created the ooze that created the ninja turtles in that second movie. The one from the 90’s. I kept waiting for the wax statues to come to life and murder everyone, but these wax figures don’t roll like that. Though the figures are clearly being portrayed by real people and I’m not sure if we were supposed to notice that or not. Instead, anytime anyone crosses over the rope that surrounds a wax display, they are transported into that world. For example, if you were to get too close to a Dracula display, you will end up in Dracula’s castle with a bunch of vampires trying to kill you. That is totally a thing that happens in this movie by the way. So, while I was initially disappointed at the lack of wax related hijinks, I was quickly wrapped up in the spirit of this silly but very entertaining movie.
Since nearly all the main character’s wind up transported inside one of the wax displays, the movie starts to feel almost like an anthology film. You have the main story that runs throughout everything, but then you get these little diversions. One characters goes into a vampire world. There’s a short story about a werewolf, one about a mummy, etc. What’s even better is that they really do work as self-contained short stories. They have an actual ending and aren’t just individual scenes within the larger narrative, they stand out on their own and it’s a very unique way to handle the movie.
What’s most appealing about Waxwork though is an overarching sense of fun to the whole thing. This movie is not taking itself seriously, even going so far as to have one character say aloud “they will make a movie about anything these days” while stopping just short of looking directly into the camera. I read that it’s considered to be one of the first examples of self-referential horror and is apparently sometimes compared to Scream in that sense. I can’t fully get behind that, but it definitely has a few winks to the audience and is certainly aware that maybe this isn’t a movie you should be taking too seriously.
Waxworks also delivers in the gore department, though all of the violence is pretty goofy in itself (there’s never a bloody moment that makes you wince) which just adds to the over the top gleeful mood that permeates this entire thing. It all culminates in a sequence where various wax displays all join together and do battle with a bunch of regular humans, at least one of who is a pompous British butler. I’ve mentioned before my affinity for any horror movie that can make me say “Well I’ve certainly never seen that before” and this one went above and beyond in that final stretch.
Waxwork is a fun movie, it’s as simple as that. It has a unique way of presenting its story and remains entertaining throughout, largely because it is constantly jumping in and out of different stories. The characters, the acting, it’s all fine but it’s mostly the whole silly tone that won me over on this one. I absolutely see why this one has obtained cult status.