Prayer Focus
Movie Review

House of Wax

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence, some sexual content and language

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
STAFF WRITER

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Horror Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 26 min.
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
May 6, 2005 (wide)
Featuring: Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Producer: Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Susan Levin
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Prey. Slay. Display.

I wasn’t expecting much from this film. A cast ranging from Chad Michael Murray (Hilary Duff’s romantic interest in “A Cinderella Story”) to Paris Hilton. A theme and plot which, based on the advance publicity, was pure exploitation. Fairly easy to infer that this would be a violent, gross-out fest. And so it was.

In the grabber opener, set in 1974, two young boys are in high-chairs. Their faces are never seen; but one keeps quiet and eats his cereal, while the parents have to strap the other one down. He pulls so hard on his restraints that he draws blood from his own wrists. And when he scratches his mother, she slaps him hard across the face. Okay, so we’re borrowing a page from “Psycho”…parental abuse.

Cut to present day. A characterization scene in which someone is working on a life-size, human female wax figure, in particular sculpting the breasts (this is the only explicit nudity in the film). Then, on to the main story. Six young 20s kids (two couples and two excess males), caravaning in two vehicles, are on their way to a college football game. There’s some interaction between them, in order to give us minimal character development. Nick (Murray) is the brother of Carly (Elisha Cuthbert), and he and his buddy are the odd men out, along for the ride because he just got out of the slammer, and his sister is being nice to him. He has a hard edge, and no one else likes him very much. But his character sticks out in the viewer’s mind, while most of the others are forgettable.

When the kids decide to pull over and camp for the night, they sometimes smell an awful stench from the woods. And there’s a creepy truck that pulls up in front of them, but backs away when Nick throws a bottle and breaks one of the headlights. In the morning, the two girls can’t resist finding the source of the stench (yeah, right). It turns out to be a dumping ground for roadkill. There seems to be a human hand sticking up from the pile, but the weasely guy who does the carcase-dumping shows them that it’s just a mannequin. Everyone is relieved, sort of. There’s more trickery, building and diffusing of tension several times, as we wait for the story to kick into high gear.

Since the fan belt on one of the cars broke overnight, some of the kids try to drive on to the game while others remain behind. And so it begins. The six victim characters are split up into pairs, and then into singles, to be picked off one by one. Forty-five minutes into the film, the first couple actually enters the House of Wax (which is literally built all of wax). From there, it’s a nonstop roller-coaster.

Sex/Nudity: This category is surprisingly light. There are jokes and sight-gags about gayness, oral sex etc., but nothing very graphic. Both of the couples are shown sleeping together, in a literal sense, but there’s no nudity or simulated sex. Paige (Hilton) is shown necking with her boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri’chard) a number of times. And there’s a sequence where they think they’re alone at the campground, and they begin preliminary moves; he takes off his shirt, and she strips to skimpy bright-red underwear. In the midst of kissing him, she tries to interrupt things to tell him she might be pregnant. But there’s another, external interruption as well… someone outside the tent turns off the sensual music on the CD player. Blake gets up to investigate, and that’s the last time the couple sees each other alive. (That’s known as sex-related violence.)

Profanity: Perhaps fifty occurrences of harsh language, including cursing and a half-dozen or so uses of f*. Bad attitudes behind much of the language.

Violence: Heavy to Extreme, since this is the primary audience appeal. Jump scenes. Cat-and-mouse sequences. Creative ways of killing and wounding people, some of which have never been filmed before. Cutting the Achilles’ Tendon, so the victim can’t run away. Decapitation with a pair of knives that have handgrasps in the shape of the head and tail of a dragon. Shooting with crossbow bolts at point-blank range. Turning a person’s face into mush with a baseball bat. And, in case anyone missed it on the publicity, the reason the wax figures look so real is because they’re real people sprayed with a wax coating. When the entire House of Wax catches fire, it melts in on itself as some victims try to escape.

Positive Content: This is a hard one. But there’s a certain amount of heroism and bravery shown by some of the would-be victims. Particularly, the brother-sister couple help and protect each other.

Genre Symbolism: There are repeated nods to “Psycho,” including the woman at the window. And material which (in my opinion) mirrored other films, from “Jeepers Creepers” (2001) to films as obscure as “The Black Room” (1935) in which Boris Karloff played a set of good-and-evil twins.

Production Values: The sets, including the wax figures and the entire wax house, were elaborate. Some creative symbolic work, such as when a knife slashes through a wax wall and cuts into the wax figures of a pair of siamese-twin babies, separating them. Not surprisingly, the character development was minimal and the acting was uneven. In the sequence where the six intended victims wake up from camping, the vehicle on which the fan belt was cut has smoke rolling out from under the hood, but no one notices. This was probably a last-minute script change, with use of existing footage to avoid a retake.

To be honest, Paris Hilton’s acting is noticeably bad. But she’s been promoting this film with the claim that she has the “coolest” death scene in it. Even that is debatable. Nevertheless, there’s a line of “See Paris Die” T-shirts, sold at places like Kitson.

Spiritual Content: There’s a church with a funeral going on forever; the “deceased” (the bad guys’ mother), the minister and the attendees are all wax figures. Very creepy. When the “evil” twin is killed, one of the victim characters appeals to the other twin that he’s really not such a bad guy, he was always under the spell of his brother and now he can stop what he’s doing and be his own person. But… the appeal doesn’t work. This was the only point in the film when I felt a momentary attachment. I wished someone were there who could make a stronger appeal to the manipulated twin, telling him that if he yielded his life to Jesus, the hurt and guilt of the past could be wiped out. And that he’d respond positively to that message. But of course, that isn’t a part of this genre’s formula. All the bad guys have to “get theirs,” except when someone is left alive in order to set up a sequel.

Overall, the film was trashy and sensationalistic. Due to strong publicity and the high demand for horror these days, it may well open at number one. But it’s basically pointless, no message in the story, just a roller-coaster ride. Don’t expect it to be anything more than what it is. And don’t take the kids.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I am a 18-year-old guy who wanted to see a fun, scary movie after prom with some friends. We went, and I came out from the movie just to take a breath. Of course, this movie is morally offensive, it should be.

No Christian should ever want to do what is in this movie. The only reason why I didn’t give this movie an extremely offensive rating is because there was no nudity (some sexual references). I ended up rating this movie very good because I thought it was a thriller; a great horror movie.

The explanation given of this movie on Christian Answers is completely right when it says there is no point to this movie. But is there of any horror movie. The point was to scare me, and boy did it ever. If you don’t mind going to a movie, and seeing some gross, crazy action than I would say enjoy yourself…
My Ratings: Very Offensive/4
—John Palm, age 18
Positive—This film was very good even though some stuff was slightly objectionable. Paris Hilton doesn’t have too many lines but she was very good in it. There are about 6 death scenes with a lot of gore in these scenes. I loved this movie and think u should see it if u want a good thrill and don’t have a weak stomach!!
My Ratings: Average/3
—Stefanie, age 18
Positive—I will preface by saying that I do enjoy horror movies. As an above reviewer mentioned, a lot of Christians do not, and for obvious reasons. If you do not like horror movies or have a weak stomach, then read no further, this movie is not for you. This movie is also not for children, and I feel very strongly about people who show movies like this to young ones, even teenagers. It slightly disturbs me when I see a 10-year-old sitting in the theater with their parents as I did in my viewing.

“House of Wax” is pretty much your average horror/slasher film. Once the action gets going, the scenes are tense, dimly lit and spooky, but I wouldn’t say this is the stuff nightmares are made of, unless gore easily gets to you. The gore was a bit gratuitous; however, its main audience expects it. What brought me into the film was the atmosphere. The sets were unique and really gave the town this abandonned feeling. Also, I was surprised at the intricacy of all the wax figures for a movie of this type. Also, if you take the time to listen, the film has a very haunting score. This really added to the effect of the film.

All the actors are average, the exception being Paris Hilton who just made me laugh and as others mentioned get little development. Nevertheless, the chase scenes are fun and the concept of the villains actions is disturbing. I would not classify this movie as a better of the horror genre, but it definitely delivers if your looking for a tongue-in-cheek horror film. The film doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an hour and a half of spooky escapism.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3
—Charles, age 21
Negative
Negative—This movie was a very mediocre slasher flick. It has great sets (the house of wax and the town inhabited by wax people) but the plot was extremely ignorant. You never feel anything for any of the kids being killed off. You never feel any kind of tension or suspense. …this movie doesn’t even have any good “boo” scares (cheap scares that come from something jumping out nowhere accompanied with a loud instrument on the soundtrack).

It really failed. That’s reason enough not to waste your money on it, but it’s also filled with profane language and graphic violence (the makers obviously tried to make for lack of suspense with explicit, bloody death scenes). Don’t waste your time. I am the rare Christian that enjoys scary movies, and can even get into a good slasher flick, but House of Wax is neither. It is a bore…
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/2
—Q Dawg, age 33
Comments from young people
Neutral—“House of Wax” is a movie I do NOT reccomend growing Christians to see. This film is filled to the brim with gore including: a large pile of rotting, fly ridden road kill, the cutting of an achilles tendon using branch trimmers, flesh being pulled off a real/wax victims face, decapitation, a spear being thrown through Hilton’s skull, slit throats, fingers getting cut off, faces bashed in with baseball bats, even an arrow getting shot through Murray’s leg using a crossbow.

All disgusting and disturbing images I can’t get out of my head, even though I watched this movie two months ago. The plot was twisted and was hard to follow. I’m still not sure why the wax houses creators, aka the evil twins (triplets) parents abused the one twin or why he has this grudge against innocent people when it’s his parents he hates. I also disliked the fact that the misled twin doesn’t see the error of his ways and continues trying to kill people after his manipulative twin brother is killed.

Mild sexuality with unmarried couples sleeping next to one another and a strip tease preformed by Paris Hilton to arouse her shirtless boyfriend. Neither have wedding rings upon their fingers! Acting wasn’t very good and just becasue a movie has a classical, good and familiar title doesn’t mean it will be good, just as the directors of this movie have proved. …
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3½
—Chelsey, age 14
Negative—I saw this movie really against my own will. I really didn’t want to I’m not the right age anyhow but my friends persuaded me to watch it with them. I agreed if they would pay for the food. It was probably the most pointless two hours I ever spent in a movie theater.

I’m really interested in becoming a filmmaker one day and so the only positive thing I learned from this movie is what NOT to do in a moive.

Each death was more gorish than the other and the only part I slightly enjoyed (Forgive me Lord) was when Paris Hilton was killed. (I dislike her and her stupid show “Simple Life.”)

Are Hollywood directors just trying to disgust us? We really don’t need to see all that violence or hear all that language. Screams and increased heartbeats were frequent throughout the entire movie. For enjoyment however none.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/1½
—Matthew, age 15
Movie Critics
…except for when Paris is on screen giving us the winking sex eye, “Wax” is just a museum of gory, joyless, easy shocks…
—Gregory Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly
…there’s more to good filmmaking than buying the rights to a classic title…
—Chuck Wilson, L.A. Weekly
…not a good movie …I didn’t mind the slow start, since it gave me time to contemplate the exemplary stupidity of these students, who surely represent the bottom of the academic barrel at the University of Florida…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…a by-the-numbers slasher flick resulting in the typical “Ewws” after each gory death…
—Scott Craven, The Arizona Republic
…the movie descends into a series of graphic killings and slasher-flick cliches, making it impossible to feel scared or to care on any level…
—Christy Lemire, Associated Press