Main cast: Elisha Cuthbert (Carly Jones), Chad Michael Murray (Nick Jones), Brian Van Holt (Bo/Vincent), Paris Hilton (Paige Edwards), Jared Padalecki (Wade), Jon Abrahams (Dalton Chapman), and Robert Ri’chard (Blake)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
It seems that it is written in the stars that Jared Padalecki and Chad Michael Murray will duke it out once more over the affection of a young lady, with both men reprising the same roles that they held in the first season of Gilmore Girls in this very loose remake of the 1953 movie of the same name. Here, the object of their affection is Carly Jones. Mr Padalecki’s Wade is a nice bland guy while Mr Murray’s Nick is Carly’s black sheep twin brother. Both young men dislike each other and Carly is caught in the middle of their rivalry.
Having said that, this movie has very little resemblance to the Vincent Price movie apart from the presence of wax statues (no, not Paris Hilton, although she looks very much like one in this movie, with her smooth pale skin and generally inexpressive face). In this movie, some young people decide to attend a football match and thus travel a route that requires them to cut through the most remote woodland areas imaginable. We have Carly Jones who is hoping to convince Wade to come start a life with her when she moves to New York for college. Wade is going for the ride with his friend Blake, the token African-American fellow who looks very disturbingly like a younger Cuba Gooding Jr. Carly’s friend Paige Edwards is Blake’s girlfriend and she is coming along while hoping that she will find a way to tell him that she may be pregnant. While Wade hates Nick Jones’s guts, Blake likes Nick and invites him along. Nick brings along his obnoxious buddy Dalton, apparently because he knows that Dalton will annoy both Carly and Wade.
When these folks spend the night in a clearing, they are interrupted by a truck. A minor altercation takes place when the truck driver flashes the lights of his vehicles at them ominously and Nick picks up a stone and puts out one of those lights. When morning comes, Wade’s beloved car won’t start. Eventually all of them end up being chased by a loonybin who run a wax museum in a nearby town that seems to be caught in a 1950s timewarp. Who will end up a wax museum and who will live? Let the clichés begin!
I feel that this movie is a better action movie than it is a horror movie, chiefly because Carly and Nick Jones make better kick-ass characters than victims in a horror movie. Elisa Cuthbert manages to make Carly a formidable heroine even with her vulnerabilities and a gruesome injury inflicted by the villain. It seems too convenient that Nick happens to be a bad boy who knows how to break into locked buildings and get rough on the bad guys when there is a villain on the loose but Mr Murray, usually scrawny and obnoxiously whiny in his TV bad boy roles, manages to come off as a robust, quietly reliable, and protective hero in his role as Nick. Believe it or not, Paris Hilton isn’t too awful in her role. She doesn’t have to do much as her role is pretty much that of a slutty foil to the goody-two-shoes heroine (she doesn’t bare anything here, though, so don’t get too excited), but she manages to sneak in a few snarky lines with panache and her role comes off as one to sympathize with and even to like, as opposed to being merely some half-dressed floozie waiting to die. Everyone else in the gang is obnoxiously too-stupid to root for, although it’s a toss up who is more deserving of death, Wade who has no concept of other people’s privacy or the just plain obnoxious Dalton.
Because many of the characters just keep doing stupid things, it is more easy to root for the villain to kill them. But during the second half of the movie, it gives up at even pretending to be even a little psychological when it comes to delivering the chills and goes all-out on the pyrotechnics (think: explosions and ka-booms) and bloody brawls. The gore is amped up. Here is where Carly and Nick really shine as two estranged siblings who discover that they will defend each other to death if necessary against the common enemy. Mr Murray gives an unexpectedly enjoyable performance as a silent but effective action hero while Carly holds her on as a heroine who may take the brunt of the villain’s perverse sadism – as horror movie heroines tend to do – but she keeps rebounding and fighting back, giving back to the villain as good as she gets.
There is really nothing to qualify this movie as high art, but come on, does anyone expect this movie to be anything more than a fluffy piece of adrenaline-pumped entertainment, with viewers given the caveat at the theatre door: “Don’t expect too much, just try to have a good time”? The fact is, for me, House of Wax manages to deliver some enjoyable thrills and senseless gore just like it promises.