Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Waxwork (1988)

WARNING:  I’m going to give out major details, including the ending.

Near where I live is a stretch of businesses.  It looks like they are operating out of former houses, probably as the result of rezoning without much rebuilding.  It was a little unsettling for me to look at, as they looked like regular family homes with business names.  David Lincoln runs a wax museum that seems to have similarly taken over a random house in a random neighborhood.

Sarah and China happen to be walking past the house when Mr. Lincoln stops them.  He invites the two young ladies +4 to visit the museum, which is still in progress.  It will be sort of like a soft open, but for no more than six people.  (He insists on six as a strict limit.)  Sarah and China aren’t sure what to make of it, but they tell their friends who decide to go with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  Two even back out at the last minute.

The displays are a who’s who of popular monsters.  One of the friends, Tony, gets sucked into a display to find himself in an actual forest.  He is eventually bitten by a werewolf and becomes part of the display.  China gets to meet Count Dracula, who inflicts a similar fate on her.  Mark and Sarah manage to make it out, leaving Lincoln in need of four more people.

Mark tells everything to an Inspector Roberts, who is eventually persuaded to investigate.  As you might imagine, Lincoln is able to get rid of Roberts easily.  Actually, Lincoln tries to push Roberts into a display with no luck.  It isn’t until Roberts realizes that there are actual missing people in the museum that he goes back and finds himself trapped in Mummy World.

Mark and Sarah eventually visit Sir Wilfred, who knew Mark’s grandfather.  Dear old granddad collected items associated with 18 or the worlds most notorious bad guys throughout history.  The items were stolen by none other than Mr. Lincoln, who embedded them in replicas of the 18 evil people.  The plan is to sacrifice innocent people in batches of 6 to bring the evil people back.  The only real hope is to destroy the remaining displays before they can claim a victim, since it’s an all-or-nothing deal.

When Mark and Sarah return to the museum, the find out that only two displays remain.  Mark is pushed into a world overrun by zombies and Sarah meets Marque de Sade.  Mark realizes that his belief in the display is required.  He’s able to escape by remembering that it’s not real.  He finds Sarah, who apparently has latent masochistic tendencies.  Yes, she’s enjoying being whipped by the Marquis, who likes to call her names.

Mark is able to pull Sarah out of there only to have Lincoln push two more of their friends into the displays.  Now that he has all 18 sacrifices, the displays come to life.  Hope is not lost, though, as Sir Wilfred brings a large group of people to fight the monsters.  In the end, only Mark and Sarah make it out alive.  Yes, most of the characters die a long and horrible death.  (Well, some are quick deaths, but they’re all horrible.)  They’re followed by a zombie hand, thus setting up the sequel.

This is one of those movies that was right at home in the late 1980s.  Given that it has an R rating, I’m assuming it got a theatrical release.  However, it tends towards made-for-TV in terms of quality.  With most of the effects, you can’t see the strings.  The only noticeable exception is the wax displays.  There were two ways to go: Either make wax replicas of the actors and risk having cheesy wax mannequins or just have the actors stand in place and hope no one blinks.  They went for the second option.  You can see the actors swaying, mostly looking like they’re desperately trying not to ruin the shot.

I’m honestly not sure if this is supposed to be a legitimate horror movie or if it was meant to be satirical.  It name checks a lot of other movies and genres.  (We see a plant that I assume was supposed to be from Little Shop of Horrors, for instance.)  It’s not necessarily scary, but it does earn the R rating in other ways.  The only thing I’d really warn parents about is the Marquis de Sade scenes.  Much of the violence is tame by today’s standards, although some things might scare younger children.

This was the first film that Anthony Hickox wrote or directed, so I can forgive some things.  It did have a few big names, like Zach Galligan.  (This was filmed in between Gremlins and Gremlins 2.)  The movie even went on to have a sequel of its own, picking up right after the events of this movie, but that’s another review.

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