Halloween-O-Meter: Houses of Wax
Halloween-O-Meter: Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), House of Wax (1953), and House of Wax (2005) – 3-in-1 review
Released in 1933, Mystery of the Wax Museum follows a sculptor/curator of a wax museum who, after the museum burns down in a fire, sets out for revenge. The film was given a remake starring Vincent Price in 1953, and again in 2005. While the 1953 film follows the same story, the 2005 film deviates, following a group of teens who become stranded in the woods near a small town with a mysterious wax museum. They soon become the prey of a killer residing inside. Because heaven forbid horror films not center on a group of teenagers in the woods… Anyway all three films are based on the story by Charles Belden. Which I have not read…
So if you are looking for an enjoyable Halloween flick, or just a classic horror film, I recommend the 1953 Vincent Price House of Wax. It manages to not only stand taller than the original film, but blows the 2005 adaptation out of the water as well. All without being necessarily amazing! So if you take nothing from this review but that, that is fine. Honestly one in three films here is really worth watching…
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933):
Mystery of the Wax Museum isn’t bad. It features a fairly creative story with generally interesting characters set to a surprisingly gruesome tone for a 30s film. Say what you will about Dracula, but he didn’t display his victims in a museum! The performances from leads Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray are both quite good! Toss in some strong makeup work and you have the makings of a classic! But the film is honestly just a bit old. The tone has a hard time settling in with the runtime, which could be shorter. On top of that, every female in the film spends what seems like the majority of the runtime screaming. It’s not a hard concept to grasp seeing as there are no supernatural elements, so this choice simply dates the film. Honestly, as much as I wanted to enjoy it, it just doesn’t stand out compared to it’s successor… 6/10.
House of Wax (1953):
As great as Lionel Atwill, Vincent Price steals the show here, offering a similarly compelling performance with an added layer of sympathy and charisma. On top of that, the entire supporting cast does a great job here, with just the right amount of terror from the gals (and guys) as to keep the story in check. The film also got away with a more more, upping the content and the terror level to what I consider just appropriate enough to hold a modern PG-13 rating. The runtime also allowed for more breathing room when it comes to setup. This is key for establishing a sympathetic antagonist. (Something which the 2005 film didn’t learn.) My only real issue with this remake is that, as good as it is, the film still feels a little slow in the middle. This comes from giving your antagonist top billing. Overall though, I think it’s a fine picture! 7/10.
House of Wax (2005):
Ugh here we go. So we sat through all two hours of this dumb film and, somehow, I could have hated it more. The setup is really boring, and the finale shares the same pacing problems. Yet somewhere in the middle, this “remake” finds a solid stride. In a twist, Protagonist Carly and her brother Nick turn out to be smart protagonists! (By horror movie standards at least.) Yet despite a somewhat thrilling second act, complete with a genuinely enjoyable John Ottman score and a killer that does become more interesting, Paris Hilton swoops in to remind me of how actually awful this film wants to be! I mean, they cast Paris Hilton and apparently build the supporting cast around her. Freaking what?!? Why? And yeah as I expected, she turns in probably the worst horror movie performance I’ve seen in a mainstream film. By the end the film fails to capture anything the 1953 film set up, probably because they change the story to an almost unrecognizable degree. All I’m saying is, there is a reason this film tanked at the box office. 4/10.
So in conclusion, the original is- well old. It’s not a bad movie, but it certainly doesn’t stands out as much as plenty of other 30s horror films I’ve seen. 6/10. The 1953 remake is much better, using the always wonderful Vincent Price to create a deeper story with a more horrifying esthetic. 7/10. And the 2005 film thought Paris Hilton was an actress. It tries hard, but despite a few surprisingly strong aspects, it totally fails. Worst of all, it’s kinda boring by the end. 4/10.
Now the question is, what makes a better watch for Halloween? Classic horror, Vincent Price, or the laughable bad performance of Paris Hilton? Well look, if you want a dumb 2000s film to put on for Halloween, you could do worse. Plus you get the cliché teens in the woods with more of a serial killer vibe going. Granted Vincent freaking Price is in the ’53 one, so it’s a toss up. Really the only one that I think doesn’t work as a fun Halloween film is the 1933 film. Why? Well you can watch the Universal Monster films instead if you want to get old school. While neither House of Wax screams Halloween, I think they are both enjoyable films for very different reasons. The 1953 film is obviously better, but I had a fun time with both. 3 out of 5 Spooky Pumpkins. Scary Pumpkins? I can’t remember anymore.
So the House of Wax movies? Have you seen them? What did you think and which one do you like best? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and want to read more, we have just a few more for the Halloween-O-Meter coming soon!
-review by Ryan Prince