Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: Waxwork (1988)

It would be impossible to start this week off without talking about what is arguably Anthony Hickox's best film, which exists in a special place in both the hearts and memories of many horror fans. That movie is Waxwork and if you expect me to mock it despite the fact that it is honestly one of my favourite horror films, then you are right. After all, we all know the routine here. But I will be giving a very honest critique as well, so don't worry too much.

I have it on good authority that John Rhys-Davies might react negatively if I don't.

For this movie, we learn a very important lesson regarding Hickox. That lesson? He tends to cast actors who fans of the genre instantly recognize. other than the aforementioned Rhys-Davies, we also have David Warner, Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Dana Ashbrook, and even Patrick Macnee. That's right, John Steed is in this movie. Too bad Emma Peel isn't squeezing back into her leather catsuit for an Avengers reunion.

No, no, not that Avengers character in a skintight black suit!
Our story focuses on a group of friends who all end up going to a wax museum together. So, of course with a set-up like that, the film opens up on an older gentleman being viciously murdered while a song from The Mask seems to be playing. The killer steals many valuable artifacts and the murdered guy lays face down in the fireplace burning. Which, combined with the music, opens it up perfectly for this terrible joke.

I pulled this one straight out of my obvious jokes book.
Yeah, I'm not apologizing for that because your mind already went there on its own. Then some appropriately creepy music starts playing as the credits appear in the fireplace and the movie gets to more important things, like Zach Galligan dealing with the obvious stresses of being richer than sin. Zach plays Mark, who is the hero of our story. He's a rich white teenager in the 1980s, so you just know his life is tough. I will give him credit though, as he seems to not really be a rich asshole. He even makes a comment to his mother about her looking down on people based on class. But she jabs him right back when she reminds him that she can still keep him from having coffee. Ooooh, sick burn. Too bad his butler immediately then gives him not only a cup of coffee but also a cigarette.

"Fuck that bitch, sir. Here, smoke away."
We then see two teenager girls, China and Sarah, discussing important issues like whether Mark is dreamy. China calls him a slob, because yeah, clearly the guy who is so clean-cut in appearance that I think he might actually be Patrick Bateman as a teenager, is totally a massive slob. Good call there, China. But then we learn that it's actually less that she thinks he's a slob and more that she just wants to fuck older guys. Well, alright, that's fine, fuck who you want. But do you really have to insult a guy just because he's not one? It's like you want the audience to cheer when you die. And yes, I lost no sleep over this character dying. Oops, spoiler alert! But, we don't have time for that, as the girls stumble across this creepy building that looks like it might actually be a nice bed and breakfast.

Seriously, I kinda want to take a vacation there. It looks really nice.
But, it's not a bed and breakfast, it's just David Warner's house. What does he do there? Well, there is a sign that says Waxwork, so either he makes candles or he's the movie's villain. And, seeing as how it's David Warner, we all know he's the villain. Apparently he also shops at the same store as Willy Wonka too.

"Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure asphyxiation."
He gives the girls an invitation to come later to a specail showing at midnight and to only bring six friends. China doesn't notice how obviously creepy this all is because she's too busy eye-fucking David Warner. I guess she's a fan of his work in trying to destroy Jeff Bridges in Tron. Then it's off to college where Mark hears about China going out with another guy and gets lots of Nazi homework for reacting very vocally to said news. We then jump the football field where we get to pretend this is a teen movie and not a horror film, then China reminds us that these kids are doomed. They all decide to go to the waxworks but not before we get to see China be a stuck up bitch some more, because the movie desperately wants us to cheer at her eventual demise. One couple bails out at the last minute though. At the waxworks they meet the world's smallest butler and a couple of them get too close to some of the exhibits, resulting in them being pulled into the displays.
Perhaps wandering into a creepy place and splitting up wasn't the best call, yes?
Mark's buddy Tony ends up going into one of the displays after his lighter. This results in him finding himself in the middle of the woods where he automatically assumes he was drugged and left as a joke. He then wanders to a cabin where he finds John Rhys-Davies after he found out about his character getting killed off on Sliders. This results in him turning into a werewolf and biting Tony, who is now a permanent part of the display, thus setting up the major plot point in the film regarding these displays: people being sacrificed to become part of the displays. I wonder what happens when each display gets a sacrifice?

"BRING IN THE LOGIC PROBE!"
We then see China face off with her own problems as she ends up at an obvious vampire dinner party where she eats some steak tartar that turns out to be a guy's leg. Lovely. Because she's kind of a huge fuck-up, she ends up getting that guy killed, but manages to actually fight off many vampires. Then she gets her wish to find an older guy, as Fabio Dracula necks with her. Disappointed that she didn't get a bloody death? Yeah, me too. Maybe something will happen later to karmically balance things out between her and Mark? Anyway, Mark and Sarah both end up leaving but learn their friends didn't go home and something is obviously going on with that creepy waxworks ran by Sark. China's one-night-stand shows up there too, looking for her and ends up being shoved into the Phantom of the Opera display. We don't get to see his story, because he wasn't really important, but he's dead now.

If he looks sad, it's just because he realized that his crowning achievement in life is being dead.
Mark approaches some cops who check things out, but find nothing to really link the place to the disappearances of their friends. Except...Inspector Roberts notices some of the wax figures look like missing people that he's been looking for. This leads to him and his partner going back where Roberts sneaks into the waxworks and ends up becoming stuck in a display where he gets killed by the curse of the mummy while his partner gets his neck slapped by the larger butler, resulting in him being slapped a lot by the tiny butler and getting yelled at by Warner, because they could've used the other cop for a sacrifice. But wait, weren't there other characters in this movie besides Sark, Lurch, and Tattoo? Why yes, there were!

They're hard at work trying to get to the bottom of the plot by digging through this set from The Goonies.
Mark and Sarah end up rummaging through his grandfather's things in the attic where she finds a book about the Marquis de Sade that can glow, which turns her on for some reason. But Mark distracts her from this with an old newspaper article about the opening scene of the film and it turns out that Sark may be responsible for everything! GASP! Someone go call Kevin Flynn before the Master Control Program takes over the world. Mark goes to visit Sir Wilfred, his godfather, and learns about the rest of the plot. It turns out that the waxworks is set up to raise an army of evil beings from the past for the devil. That sucks. The only solution is to burn the waxworks. The two heroes rush off to foil the plans of the the grandfather murdering villain, but they both end up stuck in displays. Luckily, Mark escapes and finds that the display is only dangerous if you believe in it. Meanwhile, Sarah is busy getting whipped to death while having multiple orgasms. Oh my. Also, Anthony Hickox enjoys watching.

I can only assume we don't see his hands here because he is doing a bit of whipping himself.
Mark shows up to save her though and their friends from earlier who bailed end up taking their places by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just when it seems that all is lost and the world is doomed, Sir Wilfred and Jenkins the butler show up with a mob of angry old people to save the world. Awesome, I love it when lynch mobs are actually doing good things for a change. So the mob and our young heroes fight off the wax figures that now live and Jenkins gives China some hard wood from behind.

She died as she lived...on her back with something long and hard inside of her.
Mark has a showdown with the Marquis and the man that killed his grandfather, resulting in Sarah axeing the Marquis and the villain taking a wax bath. But sadly, Jenkins and Sir Wilfred both die along with many of the other people upstairs as the building burns. Sir Wilfred gets a rather grisly death scene as the werewolf rips his head off. The young heroes both escape though and we get to admire those great fire effects.

In a film about wax monsters coming to life, the fire is the least realistic thing. Wow.
The movie then ends on a tease for the sequel, as a zombie hand that Mark cut off earlier crawls from the burning house, because Anthony Hickox wanted us to know that he's seen Evil Dead 2. The credits then roll while a classic song that you may have heard before plays over them, and that's it for Waxwork. The verdict? It was a great movie that really sums up a lot of the best of the 1980s horror scene while also throwing in plenty of love towards classic horror stories via the displays. It's honestly a better tribute to Universal horror films than the actual Universal films made to pay tribute to those same films.

Not that I am naming any names or anything.
The acting was campy and over the top, the effects were mostly well done, and the story managed to keep interesting throughout while never forgetting that it also still wanted to be a comedy while being a horror film. In the end this resulted in a rather entertaining film that deserves to be remembered as a classic 1980s gem alongside other horror comedies like The Return of the Living Dead and Evil Dead 2. It's not going to scare you too much, but if you have a love for campy fun and the era in general, then you will not regret sitting down to "take a closer look". So, until I get invited David Warner's house to die via wax monsters, I'll be here brushing up on my Zach Galligan jokes. I have a feeling I'll be needing a lot of them. Later days, bleeders.

Zach seems end up with wide-eyed furry friends regardless of what movie he's in.




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