• House Of Wax (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 13th, 2021.
    Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
    Cast: Chad Michael Murray, Paris Hilton, Elisha Cuthbert, Brian Van Holt, Jared Padalecki, Jon Abrahams
    Year: 2005
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    House Of Wax – Movie Review:

    Jaume Collet-Serra’s 2005 remake of House Of Wax was produced by Dark Castle Entertainment and producers Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis, the same team that brought you Ghost Ship and the remakes of House On Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts. Scared yet? You should be. Because those movies were not good. This one, however, is a marked improvement while still suffering from some of the same problems as those aforementioned pictures.

    After an unsettling prologue that takes place in 1974 and sets up some key events, we move to the present day. Here a half dozen friends from college - Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki), Carly’s brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray) and his friend Dalton (Jon Abrahams) and sweethearts Blake (Robert Ri'chard) and Paige (Paris Hilton - novelty casting alert!) - decide to take a trip to another campus to check out a football game. Of course, their car breaks down on the way and this means they have to get off of the main highway and detour into a creepy old town named Ambrose.

    The group starts checking out all that the town has to offer, which doesn’t turn out to be much at all. In fact, they seem to have the place to themselves, there’s no one around. When they stumble across a crazy looking building with a sign out front that reads Trudy’s House Of Wax, they let their curiosity get the better of them and decide to go check it out. Soon after, they meet Bo (Brian Van Holt), a mechanic who seems friendly enough at first. Soon enough, however, they learn that Bo isn’t quite as friendly as he first seemed and that there’s a whole lot of weird stuff going on in and around the titular house of wax.

    A remake of 1953's House Of Wax and in turn 1933's Mystery Of The Wax Museum, this take on the tale has one big strike against it that’s hard to ignore, and that’s the cast. It isn’t even that the acting is specifically bad, it’s that the characters are really just straight up annoying most of the time. If you can’t find anyone to like in a horror movie, it’s hard for the inevitable murder set pieces to carry the impact that they should, and that is part of what strops this movie from working as well as it could and should have. The script doesn’t give us anyone to really cheer for here and, as such, we can’t invest much of ourselves into the plot. This has been a problem with other Dark Castle films as well, and it makes you wonder why they didn’t put more effort into this obviously very important area of their productions.

    That said, is it a total waste of time? No, not at all. Despite the fact that the six main characters all suck, Collet-Serra does manage to create a few moments of decent suspense and tension and the production values here are very strong. It’s obvious that this had a big budget and they make the most of it. The effects work is pretty solid throughout, it’s creative and usually pretty convincing, with some nice ‘melting’ effects featured in the movie that are pretty cool to see. The cinematography and production design are genuinely impressive as well. There’s certainly entertainment value to be had here, and it is admittedly rather fun to see some of the seriously annoying characters killed off in fairly gruesome ways. It just doesn’t wind up having the staying power that it could have.

    House Of Wax – Blu-ray Review:

    Taken from a new 2K scan of the interpositive, Shout! Factory’s AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer for House Of Wax is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and takes up 32.7Gbs of space on the 50GB disc. No complaints here, the transfer is a good one. Detail is quite strong and there’s consistent depth to the image. There’s no print damage to note while the picture appears to be devoid of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression issues. Colors look good here as well, and we get strong black levels. Overall, this looks really good.

    The sole option for audio on this disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track in the film’s native English with optional subtitles offered up in English only. It’s a strong track with some pretty aggressive moments really pulling you in with frequent surround activity. Dialogue stays clean, clear and easy to follow while the levels remain nicely balanced throughout the duration of the film.

    Shout! Factory has put together a few new interviews for this disc, starting with Die, My Darling, which is an interview with actress Paris Hilton that runs for eight-minutes. She talks here about how she wound up getting the part in the film, her character, how ‘See Paris Die!’ became a bit part of the advertising campaign, some of the ideas she had for her character’s death scene and how she feels people really love that particular death scene and seem to watch it all the time. I’m not sure she’s right on that, but okay.

    In The Tale Of Blake And Paige we get to hear from actor Robert Ri’chard who speaks for eight-minutes about how much he enjoyed being in Australia for the shoot, how he wound up in the movie and how he got along with his co-stars, particularly Paris Hilton who he speaks quite highly of here.

    Organ Grinder interviews composer John Ottman for six-minutes in a piece that sees him explain how and why he went about using an orchestra for most of the score but did wind up using a synthesizer to do certain parts. He also explains his creative process here and offers some thoughts on the film and what he tried to bring to it.

    The last of the new featurettes gets makeup effects artist Jason Baird on camera for They Live And Breathe, a nine-minute piece that lets him explain what went into creating the different wax figures that are used in the movie, how the crew essentially built the town for the movie, using people in masks to double for the wax creations and some of the real-life dangers inherent in working with a lot of wax around.

    From there, check out the wealth of archival featurettes carried over from the special edition DVD release, starting with a selection of twenty-seven-minutes’ worth of B-Roll And Bloopers Footage with a video cast commentary offering up some context for this footage. It’s amusing to see some of this stuff and it gives us a bit of insight into what the vibe was like on set.

    From Location: Joel Silver Reveals The House Of Wax is a quick two-minute bit where Silver shows off some of the locations, while Wax On: The Design Of House Of Wax spends seven-minutes exploring what went into some of the design work needed to bring the main sets and set pieces to life in the film. The House Built On Wax: The Visual Effects Of House Of Wax is a ten-minute piece that goes over how some of the effects set pieces that highlight the film were created, introducing us to some of the people who made that happen and showing off some of the techniques that were used in this department.

    Further along in the archival section we get a quick one-minute alternate opening sequence entitled ‘Jennifer Killed’ (which is pretty self-explanatory), a five-minute gag reel and a selection of twenty-minutes or vintage cast and crew interviews culled from the film’s original electronic press kit materials. This material is fairly promotional in nature, but if you want to know more about the movie you’ll appreciate it regardless as Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki, John Abrahams, Robert Ri’chard, director Jaume Collet-Serra and producers Joel Silver and Susan Levin all show up here.

    A theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection finish up the content on the disc.

    As to the packaging, this release comes with a slipcover and some reversible cover sleeve art, which features the same art as is on the slipcover on one side and the film’s original one sheet art on the reverse.

    House Of Wax - The Final Word:

    If House Of Wax is no unsung masterpiece of modern horror, it is better than its reputation might have you believe thanks to some strong art direction and a few impressive effects set pieces. Shout! Factory has done a nice job giving this one a special edition release, offering it up with a strong presentation and a nice selection of extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized House Of Wax Blu-ray screen caps!