It all started with the remake of the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003. Making some serious buck (try $125 Million), studios snapped up every possible title as it seemed that audiences were ready for remake after remake. Why can't Hollywood simply make films like the recent Descent or the highly-underrated Slither instead of these campy, crappy remakes like 2005's House of Wax. Oh yeah, add in that fact that Director Jaume Collet-Serra decided to include famous 'actress' Paris Hilton in this remake, and you have quite the literal horror fest.
First about the original film at hand. The 1953 original House of Wax was nothing short of an excellent horror film. Lead actor Vincent Price delivered a four-star performance certainly creating that necessary tension that horror films should create. In fact, the film was incredibly scary giving you many heart-clenching moments (well at least for me but maybe I get frightened easier) that the 2005 remake totally discards for the face of promoting its stars and giving the audience tons of splashy gore and screaming.
The basic story goes something like this. With their car breaking down on the side of the road, six college friends decide, for nothing better to do, to go into a nearby town. The nearby House of Wax intrigues these six due to its history of violence and horror. All six soon find out that the town, and the house, isn't what they thought it must have been (what else do you expect a house of violence and horror to be besides a, shock, house of horror and violence)? The six must find their way out before they are all killed.
Truth be completely told, House of Wax isn't a completely horrible film. Certainly not even on the same level as the 1953 original, the remake does boast a lot of familiar faces in Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Jon Abrahams, and the aforementioned Paris Hilton. While none of these actors really add a lot of instant benefit to the film, famed producers Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis added a level of intrigue for myself. Yes, there was a unnecessary amount of blood and gore (why do audiences like stuff like this instead of actual horror?), but the film was pretty entertaining the first time through (I have sense watched it three times; once on SD-DVD, HD DVD and now Blu-Ray). Such isn't the case the third time through, possible because one knows what we happen and everything is predictable.
The film simply doesn't ever have the characters reach the level where we might actually care about their deaths. Speaking of the deaths, minus one particular death, the deaths was dull and unoriginal as it seems that studios are making horror film villians carry bigger weapons. And the film was overly long at 113 minutes (why wasn't some of this time spent on character development)? I guess Serra felt this wasn't necessary because many of them were going to die anyhow. Still, House of Wax is worth at least a rental simply to see our favorite socialite die.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 1:85:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio, House of Wax delivers a solid transfer throughout the course of the film, which was especially great considering the amount of darker sequences in the film.
Benefiting from a new print, the film's transfer is in fine shape with no real instances of dirt, grain, pixilation or visible noise on the screen. Color usage, again commenting on the darker sequences, was excellent as we get bright and vibrant reds, greens, blues and blacks. This give's the film a kind of darkish blue type tint. The film's use of grain in the darker scenes was probably a stylistic choice by Director Jaume Collet-Serra, so one can't really knock on that.
Comparing this to the SD-DVD side by side, I noticed more detail, but not in a 'wow' type manner that most high-definition films receive. This was making me wonder why WB thought a film like House of Wax needed a high-def upgrade. Maybe they wanted to capitalize with the cultural obsession of Paris Hilton we seem to have? Anyhow, after comparing this to the SD-DVD version, I decided to fire up the HD-A1 and see how these two looked side by side, which was especially important here as the Blu-Ray release of House of Wax has about 5GB less space to work with.
Both releases benefit from a VC-1 encoding. Honestly, there is pretty much zero difference between the two releases. Both releases had one inherent problem. The film's contrast, in some sequences, seemed almost washed out and too low for the film. Some of the extremely darker scenes (the early campfire scene comes to mind) were so hard to make out that I was tempted to go grab a flashlight to shine some brightness on the screen. This gave the film an almost 2-D instead of the normal 3-D depth that high-definition films carry.
Still House of Wax looked fine overall as the aforementioned problem of flatness in some of the darker scenes, wasn't that annoying. I guess the fact that a certain socialite gets her due makes the slight problem all that worthwhile. Warner has found that VC-1 works for them and there is no reason that they should stop while they're ahead. A solid step up from SD-DVD here Warner.
The provided Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 available in either English, French or Spanish, and being encoded at 640kbps, gives House of Wax that typical audio that most horror films have.
The film's dialogue was clear and easy to make out while the film's dynamic range had a nice sense of completion and fullness to it. The high's and low's were simple and well used creating a nice, creepy effect. Surround usage, well kind of low, was good in some point (the howling wind and random yells sounded great), and low in some points (a majority of the film is rather low not really kicking in a continuous support of the surrounds until the film's final act). House of Wax doesn't boast the most energetic soundtrack, but does provide the listener with a good enough aural experience.
A nice surprise here as all the SD-DVD features found themselves appearing on this release.
- From Location: Silver Reveals 'House of Wax': A brief introduction by producer Joel Silver lets us know about the conception of the film and what he wanted to involve himself in the film.
- Wax on: The Design of 'House of Wax': Here we get to find out about the film's use of design including the film's various sets and production design. I really enjoyed finding out more about the house as I felt it was one of the film's few positives.
- The House Built on Wax: The Visual Effects of 'House of Wax': In this featurette, we get to find out about the visual effects used in the film. I found in interesting that many of the bigger effects weren't done using CGI, which gives House of Wax a more B-movie feel.
- B-Roll and Bloopers: Rounding out in 27 minutes, this split-screen featurette has one side focus on the film and the other side working as a video commentary with the cast. Obviously the 'star' of this was Paris Hilton who actually makes this 27 minute featurette quite enjoyable simply due to her sheer stupidity. Well worth a watch if you want to see how stupid Hilton actually is. A method actress Paris? Please!
- Alternate Opening: Simply dubbed 'Jennifer Killed', I feel this one is pretty self-explanatory.
House of Wax is far from a solid horror film. The characters are dull and, frankly, I was happy to see most of them go. The biggest positive here (moving this from a 'skip it' to a 'rent it') is that Paris Hilton lives out our innermost desires for her by dying! While the features, video and audio remain the same from the HD DVD counterpart, give this one a rental just to see this excellent moment.