Waxwork (1988)

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Waxwork is a movie about six collage kids who go visit a wax museum one night and only a couple of them make it out alive. While walking to class one morning, friends China and Sarah are invited to a midnight premiere of a new wax museum that just opened and are told that they can bring along four friends. Both girls seem puzzled by the new business, one that seems to have suddenly materialized overnight in the middle of the suburbs. Sarah in particular seems troubled by the whole encounter, but China has the hots for the mysterious and suave owner, so she convinces four other friends – Mark, Tony, James and Gemma – to join them.

Once everyone arrives at the dark, creepy building an extraordinary thing happens. Displaying one of the few moments of clarity rarely shown in horror movies, James and Gemma’s common sense kicks in and they hightail it out of there, leaving the other four to fend for themselves. (Sadly, this moment of clarity is only temporary, but it’s always nice to see a movie like this acknowledge it.)

The now smaller group of friends enters the museum and then promptly splits up to go look at the various displays on their own. The scenes on exhibit are morbid or violent, each one displaying either a monster or an act of violence (or maybe both.) Tony the stoner is the first one to fall victim to the waxwork when he steps into the roped off exhibit and into one of the worlds shown on display. It’s clear that of all the hallucinations he had ever hoped for, this was not one of them.

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Worst. Trip. Ever.

China is the second to fall victim to the trap, pulled into a gothic, Victorian world filled with cannibalism and vampires.

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Sadly, most of them end up being the subspecies of vampire known as the Hissers.

When Mark and Sarah can’t find either of their friends, they assume they’ve been ditched. But when neither Tony nor China show up to school the next day Mark comes to the conclusion that something is horribly wrong and he and Sarah go searching for answers.

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The way Waxwork is set up is almost like a horror anthology. Each time someone steps, or gets pushed, into an exhibit the viewer is treated to a mini side-story. Werewolves, mummies, vampires, zombies – all the basics are covered, plus a bit extra. Each separate segment is relatively short, only about 5 minutes long or so, but they all stay on point. That point mainly being the addition of violence and a bit of gore.

It’s interesting to note, that not everyone reacts the same when they suddenly find themselves in the world of an exhibit. Some question what’s going on immediately, while others just inexplicably seem to go with the flow.

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With a movie with so many different environments, costuming and looking like it was filmed on a rather small budget, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the special effects. Sure, some of the monsters are obviously wearing rubber masks, but they also did some excellent work in the make-up and gore departments as well. Sadly though, it seems their budget was too small to use any actual wax figures, so instead the “realistic” wax creations in the exhibits are filled with a bunch of actors trying to remain very, very still. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t seem to take itself to seriously, so this isn’t as big of a distraction as it could be.

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Damnit Garry! When we went over the script, what part of “not breathing” did you not understand!

It’s when the movie strays from the wax exhibits that the film starts to lose much of its umph. The main story outside of the waxwork exhibits involves the typical cliché of good versus the ultimate evil for the sake of the world and only one guy, who conveniently resides locally, knows how to stop it and blah, blah, blah. Unless you’ve been living under a rock this isn’t something you haven’t seen before. It also doesn’t help that the characters aren’t all that likable, so you really don’t care who does or doesn’t make it out alive. It really would have been better to spend more time in the waxwork environments than spend as much time as they did trying to explain how everything was working.

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Well, better for us. Not so much for the poor people getting eaten alive.

Waxwork is a fun, crazy mash-up of several horror classics linked together, though I’d probably describe it more as a fantasy comedy before I’d label it horror. It has a fair amount of humor that’s catered to its more self aware target audience and offers a bit of silliness to counter some of the more gruesome moments. Though the story is fun, the tale surrounding the waxwork stories doesn’t often make a whole lot of sense and comes off as more of an afterthought than anything else. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and if you can look past some of the silly bits, the rubber masks and the human “wax” dummies, than there is a lot of fun to be had here.

Waxwork is available on a variety of streaming services, including free on Tubi TV.

It is also available on Bluray, as part of a combo-pack with it’s sequel, Waxwork 2.

Michi

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