This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenienceā€¦

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service

This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenienceā€¦

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
The Nostalgic Attic: Waxwork (1988)

29 April 2013

Waxwork (1988)

"Can't a girl get laid around here without being burned at the stake?"

The beauty of simplicity lies at the heart of many a classic 80's horror film. Take a group of teenagers to an isolated location, pit them against some form of evil; sit back and watch the carnage. There is a lot to be said for an un-convoluted setting up of characters and story, and then throwing you into the madness for the remainder of the 85 minute running time. The Evil Dead, The Funhouse, Night of the Demons and a never ending list of slasher films follow this very basic formula. And you know what? It works, for the most part. The ones that failed badly were the ones that lacked the imagination to find an interesting location or bad guy. The trouble was, by the end of the 80's, they were running out of unused locations, national holidays and masked killers.

Waxwork stepped in with an interesting mish-mash of old ideas and a fresh sense of humour. Rich college boy Mark (Zach Galligan, of Gremlins fame), is having a hard time with his girlfriend, China (Michelle Johnson). She is sick of his pampered life, and seems to be more interested in the retarded jocks than getting back together with him. On the way to college, China and sexually repressed Sarah (Deborah Foreman, Valley Girl, April Fools Day) happen upon a Waxwork in their neighbourhood that wasn't there yesterday. They meet the charming but spooky Mr Lincoln (David Warner, no introduction needed) who invites them, and 4 friends, along for a special midnight viewing.

When our hapless gang (which includes Dana Ashbrook, best known as Bobby from Twin Peaks) show up for the midnight show, they are greeted by a strange little dwarf in a tuxedo who shows them in. The Waxwork is mainly a chamber of horrors; it has various depictions of famous monsters and real life killers. One by one the gang wander off among the exhibits; but why are some of the waxwork scenarios missing the victims?

It turns out that the thoroughly evil Mr Lincoln needs six more souls to be trapped in the waxwork scenarios in order to bring the most evil creatures that have ever existed back to life. When the teenagers wander beyond the red ropes, they get sucked into the waxwork world and become the victim of whatever monster happens to be there. With his friends disappearing, it is up to Mark to figure out how to stop Mr Lincoln, before all the evil walks free in the world again...

It is a great set up, and it almost lives up to what it promises. I love the idea of having different monsters/killers for each death; it's something we don't see very often. We get werewolves, vampires, ancient mummies, the Marquis de Sade... and in the finale, so much more. The werewolf scene is short and sweet, with John Rhys-Davies as a werewolf (sold!), and the vampire one is probably the goriest and funniest. Some of the other scenarios just don't work as well as they should, though. The Marquis de Sade is the weakest of them all; it just ins't scary (not that the others are, but still) and it overstays its welcome by about ten minutes. I understand it's for a character arc for Sarah, but it slows the film to a crawl, and doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the film. One of the best looking scenarios is also sadly the most under developed. Mark gets pulled into basically 'Night of the Living Dead', in black-and-white too! it has some terrific looking zombies, but the scene lasts about two minutes and is then over! A missed opportunity.

Some of my complaints above extend to the script and pacing. What makes the best of these genre films work is when the filmmakers keep the momentum going throughout the second and last act. Sadly here, they make the decision to have the hero leave the Waxwork about 40 minutes into the film, and he doesn't get back there until the last act. It slows the film down to a crawl and introduces a detective character, for no good reason. If they had of trimmed the script a bit to keep the action in the Waxwork for the whole film, and set it over the one night, it would work a lot better. Instead, the lead goes back the next night with a plan from his exposition-spouting uncle, and finally we get around to the monster mash that had been hinted at throughout the film. The uncle character could have been introduced in the first act, which probably would have helped with the pacing issues.

Apart from that, the acting is a mixed bag. Zach Galligan is a bland lead when he isn't playing second fiddle to a cute Gremlin. The girls don't do much better; Deborah Foreman doesn't exactly set the screen alight, she can (and did) do much better than this performance. Michelle Johnson is pretty, and shows some spark with the sex appeal and comedy, but unfortunately she dies early on. Dana Ashbrook does a pretty good impression of Dana Ashbrook. I gotta assume how he acts is how he is, as this character is the exact same as Bobby from Twin Peaks. It's uncanny. David Warner is his usual charismatic self, sadly he doesn't get a whole lot of screen time. There is some fun to be had though with the dwarf and giant butlers, they provide some of the few chuckles that actually work. The scene where the giant breaks a teenagers neck is probably the funniest moment in the film.

It probably sounds like I don't really like Waxwork, but the film is still enjoyable, even with my list of complaints. The film has some fantastic gore; heads are ripped in half, skulls stomped, evil mutant babies shot, and geysers of blood feature in many of the kill scenes. The monster make up is cool, too. The werewolf moments look good, as do the mummies. We get some nice looking alien mutants and a 'Little Shop of Horrors' audrey-esque monster in the finale.

Apart from the Marquis de Sade moments, the film definitely does not take itself seriously. From the semi-surreal breakfast scene at Marks house that opens the film, through to throwaway in-jokey lines like 'They'll make a film about anything these days', the jokes come fast enough in the first half. As to whether you laugh or not; well, that's up to you. Director Anthony Hickox does a good job of keeping the film looking stylish for the most part, and he mainly falls down with the sluggish pacing mid-movie. He went on to director Waxwork II (1992) and Hellraiser III (1992). I've seen Waxwork probably five times since I was quite young. It's refreshing in its ideas, if not so much in execution. It will never be remembered as a classic along the lines of Re-Animator or Return of the Living Dead, but hey, who could resist such a fantastic video cover?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


At 29 April 2014 at 13:00 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I like this one a little more than you do. I agree it's not a Gold Standard Classic but it moves along and the practical effects buy it a lot of goodwill. I showed it to the small crowd at 2012's Crazy Movie Weekend: Halloween Horrorfest - an October Friday to Sunday with wall to wall horror movies and it went over very well. The sequel shown at 2013's CMW:HH? Not so much.

At 30 April 2014 at 01:16 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

That's great, do you run the Horrorfest yourself? I can imagine it playing well with an audience who've have a few beers, it plays out like many classic 80's films, and it does give me that warm fuzzy feeling whenever I stick it on, despite my complaints regarding the plotting.

At 12 May 2014 at 20:54 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I do - at my house - we start Friday night around 7 - and go until the wee hours. Start back up around 9-10 the next morning and go ALL DAY with only one quick break to run out for greasy burgers. Then we get another two or three movies in Sunday. We usually get 13 or 14 movies watched. Sometimes it's as few as 3 people watching - the record attendance was I think 7 people. We've done three so far with #4 scheduled for this October!

At 13 May 2014 at 01:10 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

I love it, Craig, sounds like a blast! I can imagine getting people together who are willing to get through 14 movies isn't easy. I used to do film nights in my place on the big screen, usually fun stuff like HG Lewis flicks, or 70's drive in stuff, but I think my friends just don't have the stamina anymore, and we usually only watched 4 films! I have 1 or 2 friends who are still game for this kinda thing, though we don't do it nearly as often as we used to. Would love to see the lists of films you show.

At 13 May 2014 at 09:51 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...





Here's some blog links to relevant posts:


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home