31 Days of Halloween – Day 21 – Tim Burton’s favorite horror movie
I forgot how many Vincent Price movies I’ve watched this year and it literally slipped my mind how good House of Wax (1953) really is. I was saying the other day that House on Haunted Hill is Vincent Price’s best film, but now I’m reconsidering that opinion based on this year’s marathon. There are so many good Vincent Price horror films out there, and even if you throw out most of the campy ones, you’re still left with stuff like The Fly, House of Usher and this movie. House of Wax is actually a remake of a 1933 original movie called the Mystery of the Wax Museum, but that doesn’t make it any less of a good time. Vincent Price is pretty good and doesn’t go too far with his performance, like the campy job he does in Theater of Blood or the Dr. Phibes series. This is a more rounded performance.
This is actually Tim Burton’s favorite horror movie and he introduced it the first time it ran on television. He thought it was well-made and very “deep”, in his words. I guess he was trying to say that it has a lot of layers. He went on to say that the movie was hard to explain, which I agree with. It has a very unusual concept.
Vincent Price plays a sculptor named Henry Jared who works at a wax museum. People seem to like his work and Jared gives tours daily. He is very close to his wax figures and gets upset when his partner suggests they burn down the place for the insurance money. What a jerk. The partner doesn’t give up and slugs Price in the mouth, deciding to set fire to the museum anyway. All the wax figures melt, which is the seminal scene in House of Wax. This section is the best part of the movie and it nearly fooled me into thinking it was the climax. It’s not. There’s a lot more movie to go.
Jared’s hands are so burned in the fire that he is unable to go back to work. Instead, he decides to become a serial killer. Makes sense. He murders people and dips them in wax to recreate his wax figures, which avoids all the hard work of sculpting from scratch. Talk about cutting corners. He actually kills his partner early on, but his killing spree continues even though he evens the score. Uh, what? He keeps killing? Why? Well, the point of the movie isn’t all about revenge, I guess.
Anyway, he tries recreating his museum, kills people, avoids the police, and there’s a twist at the end. The burning of the museum is a really rousing action set piece, with a fight and a lot of memorable moments, but the problem is that it’s set at the beginning. This stunts the pace and makes it hard to live up to that initial scene. House of Wax doesn’t exactly have your traditional build to a climax. Nothing happens to match that scene at the beginning.
House of Wax was remade again in 2005 as a Paris Hilton vehicle. I can barely get through this stupid movie. It’s really bad. The plot is completely different from both the 1933 and 1953 versions. The 2005 movie is basically a teenager story about a group of young people running from a family of serial killers, like in The Hills Have Eyes. Nothing is left of the themes created in the 1953 version, and the only similarity is that the wax museum burns down, where you can see the figures melt.
To be honest, Paris Hilton has a supporting role and isn’t really that bad, if your expectations are low enough. She’s given a sex scene for no reason and killed off in the movie for even less reason. Basically, she’s the selling point of this movie, but the script treats her very poorly. She basically follows the stupid horror cliches like everybody else. The teens encounter a strange town, and everybody turns up dead one after another, including Paris.
The ONLY thing I like about the 2005 remake are the special effects, but even that’s pushing it. It’s still terrible. The wax museum is now made ENTIRELY of wax and makes for a great burn victim, for no other reason than to do something spectacular on screen. It works, but it’s pretty contrived. The twist ending as in the 1933 and 1953 version is nowhere to be found in the 2005 remake. A stupider twist takes it’s place.
In all, I’m surprised House of Wax was remade so many times because each version is flawed. I guess it’s good enough for Vincent Price fans, because it’s still remembered today as one of his best. It’s too bad the script doesn’t do him any favors with the stupid pacing and scene arrangement. I don’t really mind the problems critics have with the 1953 and I have seen this movie on television a few times, so I try to catch it when I can. There’s very little reason for the Paris Hilton remake to exist, and hopefully I can avoid it. FOR GOOD.
31. Poltergeist (1982) vs Poltergeist (2015)
30. Blair Witch Project (1999)
29. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
28. The Wicker Man (1973) and The Wicker Man Remake
27. Tales from the Darkside, the Movie (1990)
26. Saw (2004)
25. The Prophecy (1995)
24. The Hills have Eyes (1977)
23. House of the Long Shadows (1983)
22. Creepshow (1982)
21. Phantasm (1979)
20. The Omen (1976) vs Damien: The Omen II
19. We Are Still Here (2015)
18. The Guest
17. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
15. The House that Dripped Blood (1971)
14. Army of Darkness (1992)
13. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
12. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
11. Theater of Blood (1973)
10. House of Wax (1953) vs House of Wax (2005)
9. Hellraiser Inferno (2000)
8. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
7. The Changeling (1980)
6. The Eye (2002)
5. The Hitcher (1986)
4. Paranormal Activity (2007)
3. 28 Days Later (2003)
2. Suspiria (1977)
1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – This review will be published October 31st!