Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Waxwork (1988)

October 26, 2012

by Peter Nielsen

We’ve now reached our fourth week in the 2012 October Spooky Flix Fest and I’d like to welcome you all back. I’m taking a slightly more comedic route with my choice of movie this week. It fits well within the “Halloweeny” horror theme we’re doing this month though and it doesn’t shy away from the gore either, so I’m still “safely” in horror territory.

I thought it would be fun if you all joined me for a little talk about the movie Waxwork which was written and directed by Anthony Hickox (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Waxwork II: Lost in Time). Would you care to join me? Yes? Well, in that case you’d better hurry up then! It’s getting dark soon and, as you all know, that’s when the fun starts. So without further ado I’ll now bid you…

“Velcome to the Vaxvork!”

This museum wasn't here yesterday, was it?

This museum wasn’t here yesterday, was it?

The two friends China and Sarah, played by Michelle Johnson (Blame it on Rio, Death Becomes Her) and Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl, April Fool’s Day) respectively, are on their way to school when they pass a creepy house with a sign that says “Waxwork” above the door.

As they stand there looking, a man suddenly appears and invites them back later, at midnight. He tells them to bring a couple of friends and then he just seems to vanish into thin air.

They persuade four of their friends to join them and a couple of hours later they once again stand at the gate to the mysterious house. Two of them get cold feet and run off, leaving only Sarah and China with the two boys, Mark and Tony, to check out the new museum. Zack Galligan from the two Gremlins movies plays Mark and Dana Ashbrook (Girlfriend From Hell, the Twin Peaks TV-series) is Tony.

The exhibition inside is of the horror kind, so you’ll see zombies, Count Dracula, a mummy, Frankenstein’s monster and even (briefly) an alien and a mutant baby.

You wanna go in or not?

You wanna go in or not?

However, we soon discover that the displays are more sinister than we’d first have thought. The owner, played by David Warner (he has more than 200 titles to his name), is sacrificing souls to the exhibits in order to bring life to the characters depicted in them. Once animated, they are to be unleashed into the world and bring an end to life as we know it. (Don’t ask!)

The sacrifices themselves are actually what make this movie the cool movie that it is! If you step across the barrier to one of the victimless displays, you’ll find yourself “inside” the scene it depicts and if you die inside it, you’ll become a permanent part of it! Tony, for instance, drops his lighter into one of the exhibits and when he goes to retrieve it, he all of a sudden finds himself in a dark forest in front of a small cabin.

Inside he encounters a frantic man telling him to get out before it’s too late. Tony thinks it’s all a joke until moonlight hits the man and he starts to transform… Well, hello there Mr. Werewolf! And bye-bye Tony!

Playtime with the Marquis...

Playtime with the Marquis…

China is pushed into a gothic castle-setting where she is seated at a table in the company of Count Dracula and his minions. This bit is actually the most bloody and visceral in the whole movie, the dinner-scene in particular, and also afterwards when you find out where the raw meat comes from. Nasty stuff!

I love all the references to different horror characters and genres in Waxwork and I think any horror-fan would agree with me here. There’s also a zombie display where, when pushed into it, Mark finds himself in a black & white homage of sorts, to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. It’s only a brief scene but still a nice touch. In another scene we find a police inspector stepping into the mummy-display and finding more than he bargained for. Classic horror stuff!

When more and more people start disappearing, Mark and Sarah seeks the help of Sir Wilfred (Patrick Macnee), an old friend of Mark’s grandfather, who tells them that the museum and the grandfather are connected from way back. He also tells them to go back to the museum and burn it down before the displays come to life in this world. They, of course fail to do so, but you all knew that would happen, right?

While dousing the place with gasoline Mark notices that Sarah is obsessed with an exhibit depicting the Marquis De Sade and his evil ways, and all of a sudden she steps into it. This bit is great! It is very intense but also highly erotic in a twisted sort of way and J. Kenneth Campbell (The Abyss) is fantastic as the Marquis.

But as I said, things very quickly go to hell in a hand-bag and the displays come to life. It all ends in a big showdown between the different monsters and a group of townspeople who has come to save the day. In the midst of this, there’s also a climactic fight between the Marquis De Sade and Mark. It’s all friggin’ awesome and funny too!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I like this movie! Very much so! Even though the acting is a bit so-so at times and some of the effects a bit dodgy, it’s never outright bad and it’s always a delight to watch David Warner and Patrick Macnee (John Steed in the hit TV-series The Avengers). If you’re a horror-fan you should definitely check this one out. That is, if you haven’t done so already!

So, my friends… that concludes my movie-chat for this week! Next week it’s Halloween and I promise you I have a great movie to talk about. But until then, why not write any thoughts you might have on Waxwork in the comment section below…


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