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House of Wax (2005) (Collector's Edition)
The fifth in a string of popular horror films released by production house Dark Castle Entertainment around the new millennium, House of Wax may best be remembered for its tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign, which promised to let you "See Paris Die!" The Paris referenced is socialite Paris Hilton, who has a supporting role in the film, which is a loose remake of Vincent Price's 1953 3-D original. Strong production values and atmosphere make up for a few slow sections, and Jaume Collet-Serra's House of Wax benefits from good performances by Elisha Cuthbert as the "final girl" and Brian Van Holt in a dual role. Shout! Factory now releases the film under its Scream Factory banner in a new Collector's Edition, which offers a restored picture, lossless sound and a decent slab of extras.
Carly Jones (Cuthbert), her ex-con brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), and several of their friends, Paige (Hilton), Wade (Jared Padalecki), Dalton (Jon Abrahams) and Blake (Robert Ri'chard), caravan toward a football game in Louisiana. They decide to camp the night before the game, shortly after passing a faded sign for "Trudy's House of Wax." After an unexpected visitor arrives at the campsite, the crew awakens to find one of their vehicles has been tampered with. Carly and Wade head into Ambrose, the idyllic, desolate town that is home to the wax museum. They meet mechanic Bo Sinclair (Van Holt), who offers to help them fix their car. Things go south when Carly realizes Bo is the man who stalked their campsite and Wade is attacked, maimed and doused in hot wax by a masked man. Nick soon finds Carly and the pair discovers the town residents are actually wax figures, made realistic by the rotting corpses found underneath their polished exterior.
The 1953 House of Wax is an entertaining mystery and benchmark of 3-D cinema, anchored by the captivating Price. This update retains some of that film's mystery elements but adds in segments of gruesome horror and suspense. The opening scenes introduce the characters but tend to drag a bit, and Carly does not get to the house of wax until more than 45 minutes into the nearly two-hour film. Spoilers ahead! Chad and Carey Hayes' script weaves in the mythology of the town, and we learn Trudy was the mother of Bo and Vincent Sinclair, conjoined twins separated in their youth. This allows Van Holt to play two characters, and he particularly excels when feigning Southern hospitality. The movie reveals that Bo uses the deformed Vincent as a workhouse to stalk travelers, murder them and cover their bodies in wax. There is no particular reason this is occurring, but madness needs no explanation. We do not see any kills outside the instant characters, though the Blu-ray includes an alternate opening in which Bo murders a stranded motorist.
The practical production design is a highlight, and the process of building the town and wax museum is detailed in the on-disc extras. There is something refreshingly old-school about watching the characters run around a fully developed set. Sure, there is some digital work in the fiery finale and during a few kills, but many of the effects are shot in camera. Once the action ramps up, there are several strong horror sequences. Hilton proves a decent actress, and her demise is probably the best of the film. The scene in which a living Wade is covered with hot wax is also quite disturbing. I really enjoyed these Dark Castle thrillers around the time they were released. These modern updates and original properties celebrate horror legacy and are better films than most of the studio horror released in the early 2000s. With only Gothika missing from Scream Factory's lineup of the core Dark Castle releases, I have enjoyed revisiting each of these movies. House of Wax could have trimmed some early exposition to make the action tighter, but offers entertaining action and suspense, a likable cast and strong production design.
This release offers a 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that is apparently a 2K restoration from the interpositive. The film looks good overall, but you may not get this confused with a more recent 4K presentation. The film has a somewhat soft appearance, but the transfer does offer decent fine-object detail, particularly in the practical sets and when focusing on the wax figurines. The color scheme is grimy but the transfer handles saturation appropriately. Black levels are good, with only minor black crush, and highlights never bleed. Skin tones are accurate, the film looks natural in motion, and I did not notice any edge halos or artifacts.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers plenty of immersive horror elements. Dialogue is crisp and clear, ambient noise travels to the surrounds, and the LFE is fairly active. During action and suspense sequences, effects travel across the entire sound field. When the switches are flipped, the town comes alive all around the viewer, and soundtrack selections are given appropriate room to breathe. English SDH subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc "Collector's Edition" arrives in a standard Blu-ray case with two-sided artwork. Newly created key artwork is duplicated on the slipcover, and the backside of the case artwork offers the original, Paris Hilton-inspired poster design. New extras include Die, My Darling (8:04/HD), a fun interview with Hilton in which she reveals her experience on the shoot; The Tale of Blake and Paige (5:22/HD), in which actor Ri'chard discusses working with Hilton; To Me They Live and Breathe (9:02/HD), an interview with effects artist Jason Baird; and Organ Grinder (6:01/HD), an interview with composer John Ottman. Returning extras include B-roll and Bloopers Video Cast Commentary (26:31/SD), a split-screen experience in which Cuthbert, Hilton, Padalecki and Murray watch outtakes from the shoot; Wax On: The Design of House of Wax (7:25/HD); A House Built on Wax: The Visual Effects of House of Wax (10:11/SD); EPK Interviews (19:45/SD); the aforementioned Alternate Opening (1:29/SD); From Location (1:32/HD), a promotional spot from producer Joel Silver; a Gag Reel (4:42/SD); and the Theatrical Trailer (2:21/HD).
Scream Factory releases another fun Dark Castle horror film in Jaume Collet-Serra's House of Wax, a loose update of Vincent Price's 1953 original. A likable cast, strong production design and fun horror elements make up for some pacing issues, and House of Wax's new Blu-ray release offers good picture and sound and a nice helping of bonus content. Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.