Friday, November 07, 2008

Waxwork – review

dvdDirector: Anthony Hickox

Release Date: 1988

Contains spoilers

We looked briefly at the sequel to this movie, Waxwork 2: Lost in Time, some time ago. However, when it came to this film I was somewhat in a quandary. You see the film carries the essence of a portmanteau movie but it isn’t actually one. It does, however, feature various vignettes based on horror films of yore.

In the end I have decided to look at this in the way I would look at a portmanteau movie. In other words I will give details of wraparound, look closely at the vampire episode and score the film solely on the vampire aspect.

In this case the wraparound element would be the part about the waxwork of the title but the film actually opens with murder and robbery in a house. When the film opens proper it doesn’t explain that we have jumped forward in time and the murder was of the main hero’s, Mark (Zach Galligan), grandfather. I say hero but Hickox drew a group of rich and obnoxious teens and it was difficult to summon empathy for them.

a strange location for a waxworksTwo more of said teens were China (Michelle Johnson) and, possibly the only sympathetic character, Sarah (Deborah Foreman). They are walking to school when they notice a waxwork that has been opened in the neighbourhood. The owner, David Lincoln (David Warner), invites them to a private viewing that evening. They can bring friends – the group should be no larger than 6.

the gangLincoln was the thief and murderer and what he stole were artefacts relating to 16 of the most evil persons in history. There were matching artefacts that related to the place associated with them. Lincoln has made waxworks of each and dioramas. Each diorama is a spell and people pass into the scene. Once dead they become part of the diorama and their death is a sacrifice to bring the creature/person back. When all 16 are complete they will be unleashed upon the world.

China ends up passing into the vampire diorama and the character pictured is Count Dracula (Miles O’Keeffe). However, when she arrives the Count – it appears – is having a vampiric dinner party. He calls to China, telling her to come and join them and it appears that there is some eye mojo going on.

eating raw meatChina sits and the Count suggests that her fiancé, Charles (Tom McGreevey), has had to travel on and asked the Count to look after her. Also at the table are some women and Stephan (Christopher Bradley) the Count’s son. She is given her meal and it is raw meat. She makes a comment regarding steak tartar and then she is asked to have the sauce with it – the sauce is blood. She eats a chunk of meat and the other dinners set to it.

reminiscent of Fearless Vampire KillersShe is shown to a room and is looking in the closet when Stephan enters. He admits that his father would kill him if he knew he were there and then moves in for the bite. She ducks and he manages to clash teeth with a statue. Now, this scene was different to the scene with the Count’s son in the Fearless Vampire Killers but it reminded me of it nonetheless.

Charles is all cut upChina runs and ends up in a kitchen area where she finds Charles. He is alive but one of his legs has been stripped of meat. Of course the implication here is that it was Charles they were eating at dinner. He tells China that the Count is a vampire and that vampires can only be killed by crucifix, wood through the heart and decapitation. Of course at this point Stephan enters the room.

to Cushing a crossThere is some chasing around the table and a stab at Stephan with a knife and then China crosses two knives together. It is a full blown Cushing moment but recall that Charles has said they can be killed by crucifix. She pushes it against his head and he smokes until his head literally explodes.

female vampireThere is no time for self-congratulations, however. The vampire brides then attack her but she manages to despatch them all. One of them manages to bite Charles and he turns immediately. There is a death by champagne when one is impaled by several bottles that pop. China manages to escape the kitchen.

Miles O’Keeffe as the CountShe tries to flee the castle but we hear the sound of a bat and then the Count is there and he draws her to him. She is bitten and thus trapped as a wax model. Now we do get more vampiric action, in the form of the wraparound, when the waxworks all come to life and this, of course, unleashes Dracula and the vampiric China.

crap bat syndromeTheir role in the battle against the waxworks is noteworthy for a moment of utter crap bat syndrome. Dracula changes to try and escape the battle and spread his evil into the world. Someone grabs the bat and, aiming a gun at it, blows it away. Not the best bat in the world, it has to be said.

I like Waxwork, it was good fun, though I actually preferred the sequel (probably because I actually saw the sequel first). The vampiric section looks sumptuous and is well shot. O’Keeffe makes for an excellent Dracula in looks at least. The problem is that there isn’t really any substance to it. As a lesser part of a greater whole it works but scoring it in its own right, comparatively to other vampire movies, it is below average. 4 out of 10 – caveated with the thought that it is better as part of the whole and the film itself would score higher.

The imdb page is here.


J.R. said...

I thought the episodes featuring the werewolf and Dracula were quite effective . . . it's true that the main characters are somewhat snobby, but that's good motivation for having two of them end up in the dioramas! (Zach Galligan's character actually becomes more sympathetic as the film progresses.)

To be nit-picky: if one of the ways to dispose of the vampire is via crucifix, this does not mean holding two knives together to make the shape of a cross . . .

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi JR - as episodes they were effective but not that great stood alone, if you will...

I agree Zach does become more sympathetic as the film progresses but was even more so in waxwork 2.

Now, nit-picking it might be, but you are quite correct - a crucifix always features a cross but a cross is not necessarily a crucifix and thus two knives crossed make a cross and not a crucifix... however, the idea that they can be destroyed by crucifix (specifically) is lifted straight from the dialogue, so the nit is picked (as it were) with the script ;)

Cheers for the comment, always good to here from you

Uranium Willy said...

It has been too long since I saw this film to remember the details, but I recall the scene with the guy and his tortured leg, as you show in the vidcap. I remember thinking what a set up it was when I saw the totally white room. I knew the walls were gonna get sprayed with tons of blood... and so they did. I remember enjoying the film overall.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Its one of those moments you just know will happen and it dioesn't disapoint, Bill, glad to have sparked some memories