Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 Horrors: Waxwork (#6)

Wherein I attempt to watch 31 horror films over the course of October. 31 horror films that I have never seen before, from obscure to acclaimed classics. We'll see how well I go in actually finding the time to watch and then write about them in some way.

Well, I guess it's horror?

Actually, "horror" is probably about third down the list of genres that this odd concoction could be placed in. I'd probably describe Anthony Hickox's 1988 film as a fantasy comedy before horror, but its reputation is quite strong and I'd always wanted to see it so I did and I'm not above saying is something horror for the purposes of October when it really, kinda isn't. That I didn't particularly enjoy it is another thing altogether, but I'm probably not going to bother with the second, Waxwork II: Lost in Time. At least not in October, anyway. Unless someone can give a good reason to do so? CAN YOU? Probably not, yeah?

Obviously riffing off of André de Toth's 1953 shlocker, House of Wax with Vincent Price, Hickox's Waxwork is a bizarre film that takes a more comical look at a mad wax sculptor's efforts to complete his macabre works. Filmed with garish, bright colours and with repeated use of the hideous "fish eye" lens (remember The King's Speech?), Waxwork has a unique look coming at it today, but I feel like this was definitely a style at the time. Am I wrong in remembering Peter Jackson's early horror work had the same same easthetic? As the core cast of teenagers find themselves in scary ("scary") situations involving famous horror identities (Count Dracula, the Wolfman, the Marquis de Sade, Romero zombies, the Mummy, and so on) it takes on the attitude of a somewhat self-referential film like Wes Craven's New Nightmare, but filtered through grand guignol bombastics.

I didn't find its sense of humour particularly funny, I must say. With its oddball personality placed very firmly left of centre, I think it takes a particular mood to get into it. I found the obvious low budget particularly distracting, which is disappointing. I hate discouraging filmmakers with limited resources from going out there and attempting stuff that is as boldly inventive with story and narrative as Hickox was with this, but I just don't think he was able to pull it off. The obvious use of model sets, human actors whose breathing is clearly visible, and some less than convincing make-up effects only served to pull me out of the experience that he so clearly had the faith in. And that's before the acting! The effort is certainly there with a number of the set-pieces - although an Egyptian Mummy sequence feels a bit like a piss-weak afterthought - but without the resources to truly pull it off at the level that they really needed. Its intentional hokeyness - at least what I saw as intentional - was off-putting, too, and I routinely find this device used in low budget fare as a way of nudging and winking its way out of a corner. No such luck.

Still, I did find myself occasionally being pulled in. I particularly liked the Dracula sequence featuring Michelle Johnson and Miles O'Keeffe, and when the film sticks to wide shots it impresses on a visual level. The initial wax set-ups are really quite novel. I got a kick out of the anachronistic use of Lesley Gore's "It's My Party" over the end credits, and any film that includes cast members from Gremlins (Zach Galligan), Valley Girl (Deborah Foreman), Twin Peaks (Dana Ashbrook), and The Lord of the Rings (John Rhys-Davis) will always have at least some eye-popping retroactive niche value to it. As a pre-date to a lot of the films that seem to get people in a twist today (anything that remotely winks at audiences with references they can easily "get" and feel proud about; playing with alternate ideas of reality) it's of interest, but it sadly doesn't really work outside of that. C

I will say this though. Whoever did the casting on this movie did a great job. Apart from the aforementioned Galligan, Foreman, Ashbrook and Johnson, there's fun supporting work by Michu Meszaros (the man inside the ALF costume!), David Warner, Jack David Walker, and some really fine casting for Dracula. If you're casting a sexually provocative figure and famed seducer for a youth-leaning horror film then you may as well go sexy and matinee, yeah? Miles O'Keeffe as Dracula is, shall we put it, a quite attractive specimen. He was essentially Angel before David Boreanaz was ever on the scene.

Yes please, I'll take two!


Hmmm... maybe just one.

(photos nabbed via 'Male Vamps' blog, naturally.)

No comments: