The third release in Lionsgate's resurrected Vestron Video line pairs up Anthony Hickox's Waxwork from 1988 and its sequel, Waxwork II: Lost In Time, made in 1992, for this new two disc Blu-ray special edition set.
The first film follows a quartet of college students made up of Mark (Zach Galligan), China (Michelle Johnson), Tony (Dana Ashbrook) and Sara (Deborah Foreman). A strange wax museum has popped up out of nowhere seemingly overnight and somehow they've been given exclusive invites to attend an opening viewing. As dumb college students tend to do so often in horror films, they pounce on the idea and before you know it they've been introduced to David Lincoln (David Warner), the even stranger proprietor of this already strange establishment.
As they explore the confines of the museum, they can't help but notice that all of the displays are inspired either by classic works of horror literature or historical atrocities from throughout the ages. The night ends… sort of. For Tony at least, he finds himself transported into the werewolf display that he saw that night, and China? She winds up in the Dracula display. When Mark finds out that they've gone missing, he understandably gets the cops involved, but of course, they don't believe him. Cops rarely believe people like Mark in movies like this. Thankfully for Mark, there's an occult expert named Sir Wilfred (Patrick Macnee) hanging about, a longtime friend of his grandfather. Wilfred is very much aware of what has happened to Mark's friends, and also very much aware of David Lincoln's sinister past and ties to the dark side of the supernatural…
Clearly inspired by House Of Wax, Hickox's film is a pretty entertaining watch. Yeah, you won't be surprised to find out that the guy who runs the creepy wax museum that pops up out of nowhere is a bad guy, there's no suspense stemming from that aspect of the story at all. In fact, most of what happens here is reasonably predictable. Having said that, there's a good cast at work here. The four actors who play the college students are all playing tried and true horror movie clichés here, but they do it well and they're fun to watch. Throw in some legitimately great actors like Patrick McNee and David Warner and that just adds to the movie's already enjoyable cast. On top of that we get none other than Miles O'Keefe cast in the role of the film's vampire.
Most of the film's entertainment value comes from seeing the various characters pulled into the world that exists in some sort of other dimension beyond the museum exhibits. There's some impressive creativity on display in these sequences and some nice practical effects work featured here as well. The film's budget does show, there's some obvious artificiality visible in some of the props and sets used throughout the picture, but again, this sort of adds to the movie's low budget charm. There's also some dark humor worked into the film that helps to keep it fun. This runs some sight gags to the dialogue, but Hickox is smart not to overdo it, keeping this closer to horror than to comedy even if there are elements from both genres worked into things.
Waxwork II: Lost In Time
Four years after the first film proved a success during the boom years of the VHS rental market, this sequel was born. Picking up pretty much right where the original film left off, we catch up with Mark (Galligan again) and Sara (played by Monika Schnarre this time around). Having escaped the wax museum as it burned to the ground, they assumed they were safe, but what they didn't realize is that it wasn't truly completely destroyed. A severed hand has survived, and when Sarah heads home for the night it follows her, makes its way into the family home and murders her father! Sarah takes care of the hand but is then accused by the local authorities of having been the one who murdered her old man. Again… who would believe that a severed wax hand could have done this?
Not wanting to see Sarah convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Mark sifts through the massive trove of occult items that were passed on to him by Sir Wilfred. Here he finds a magic compass that allows he and Sarah to journey from Earth to an alternate dimension where they hope to find what they need to clear Sarah's name and save the day. Of course, along the way there are various oddball characters and horrible wax creations to contend with, none of whom intend to allow this to happen.
It's fun seeing Galligan reprise his role in this second film and Monika Schnarre is a perfectly fine replacement for the role that Deborah Foreman played in the first film. The supporting cast, however, are what makes this one. Not only do we get supporting roles from a scene stealing Bruce Campbell and Martin Kemp (as Baron Frankenstein no less!) but also be on the lookout for appearances from John Ireland, Sophia Ward, Juliet Mills and David Carradine. McNee also reprises his role as Sir Wilfred, although his part is smaller here than in the first film.
The plot itself is even goofier than the one used for the first film but since Sarah and Mark travel through the portal and cruise through different sets inspired by movies and horror fiction, it means that the film gets to change things up a few times. If the Frankenstein sequence doesn't float your boat there's the ghost hunter sequence and the sci-fi sequence coming up, so stick with it. This one is all over the place but for all its logic gaps (and there are some biggggg logic gaps here), you can have quite a bit of fun with it. The scope for this second film is a bit bigger than the first picture, even if the budget clearly was not, but again, imaginative effects work and some good talent both in front of and behind the camera go a long way towards making this one work.The DVD:
Each of the two films in this set arrives on its own 50GB Blu-ray disc framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer and looks excellent. Detail is, not surprisingly, vastly improved over past releases though some softness is still occasionally noticeable. The first movie has more consistent color reproduction than the second but both films look quite good in that regard, even if in Lost In Time you may spot some minor fading here and there. For the most part the colors look nice and natural here, skin tones as well, and we get a nice uptick in depth and texture compared to what we've had in the past. Black levels are solid and contrast looks just fine. There are no obvious issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction and both movies are very clean, showing now print damage outside of a few small white specks now and again. All in all, these are pretty nice looking transfers and a substantial upgrade over what we've had in the past.Sound:
The only audio option for the two features are English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks. Again, this is a big upgrade over past editions, which sounded flat and fairly weak. Dialogue is much cleaner and clearer than before and the multiple sound effects featured in each of the two films have a lot more punch now, which makes those scenes a bit more effective. At the same time, the levels stay balanced so that the effects don't bury the performers. The films' awesome scores have good bounce but never overpower the dialogue and the tracks are free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided for each film in English SDH only.Extras:
Anthony Hickox and Zach Galligan provide commentary tracks for both features in this set. On the first film they talk where the idea came from for the picture, casting the film and working with the actors that appear in the picture, some of the locations used, the effects work and a fair bit more. The second track follows suit as they talk about following up the successful first entry but having to do it with considerably less money than they had the first time around. Both tracks have a decent sense of humor to them and these guys clearly get along well enough to have the right sort of camaraderie that you want when two people are talking about their experiences on something that they collaborated on. Galligan doesn't sound like he thinks as highly of the two films as Hickox does but they both have some fun stories and amusing anecdotes to share about the two movies.
The best extras on the first disc are the two featurettes, the first of which is an eighty-two minute feature length documentary entitled The Waxwork Chronicles. It's a pretty mammoth piece that fans will absolutely enjoy as it gathers up pretty much all of the available cast and crew members from the first and second movie to talk about their experiences working on the film. There's even some archival footage wherein both David Warner and David Carradine (ho is no longer with us), are interviewed about their experiences on these pictures. As the documentary plays out there are also some great behind the scenes images used alongside some pertinent clips. This is well edited and nicely structured and like the documentaries on the Blood Diner and Chopping Mall Blu-ray's that were the inaugural releases from this line, just really well done and a great addition to the release. The second featurette is a vintage piece called The Making Of Waxwork that spends twenty-four minutes examining the making of the first picture in the series. Patrick McNee hosts the piece and while it's very much an EPK style promotional piece, it's interesting to see some of the footage shot on the set during the production of the first movie as well as some of the effects set pieces being put together.
The rest of the features are made up of the film's isolated score that includes input from composer Roger Bellon, a still gallery, the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.
Aside from the commentary, extras for Waxwork II: Lost In Time include the film's isolated score that also includes some input from composer Steve Schiff, a music video made to promote the film way back when, a still gallery, the picture's original trailer, menus and chapter selection.
Both discs fit inside a clear, standard sized Blu-ray keepcase that comes with a reversible cover art sleeve that allows you to display artwork for either the first or the second movie. That Blu-ray keepcase in turn fits inside a slick foil-embossed cardboard slipcover that combines the art for both films onto one piece.Final Thoughts:
The Lionsgate/Vestron Blu-ray release of Waxwork/Waxwork II: Lost In Time is a good one, continuing with the line's trend of high quality, feature packed releases of quirky cult/horror pictures. The first film is the better of the two but the sequel is a lot of fun in its own right, and this disc really sees Lionsgate rolling out the red carpet. The presentations for each picture are, if not perfect, very good and the extras are comprehensive, well made and genuinely interesting. Highly recommended.