While watching 1988’s Waxwork, I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about a different movie, that being Cabin in the Woods. I think the latter film is truly great. The earlier one, not so much, though there are some interesting similarities.
In both films, a certain number of people must be offered as a sacrifice at some interval. This is per an arrangement made with demonic forces. Also, the deaths occur in various scenarios right out of age-old film clichés. There is even some sort of dimensional/electric barrier between the real world and that of the scenarios. There’s a mischievous disembodied hand up to no good. Heck, the first death here happens in a scenario where there is a creepy old cabin.
That happens to Dana Ashbrook, who played Bobby on Twin Peaks. I always like seeing him, but it doesn’t seem like he ever got much work. It’s kind of disorienting to see Deborah Foreman in this, as she looks and acts exactly like Sheryl Lee did when she co-starred with Ashbrook on that show.
The rest of the cast is good as well, with plenty of other surprises. Patrick Macnee of 60’s UK TV classic The Avengers makes what is basically a glorified cameo. John Rhys-Davies (the Indiana Jones series, the Lord of the Series series) appears as a werewolf. Zach Galligan is the hero of the picture, and I don’t recall having seen him in anything except Gremlins and its sequel.
But the most welcome surprise for me was David Warner as the owner of the titular waxwork. I always like seeing him as the villain. Hard to believe he was never the antagonist before doing Time After Time, seeing as to how effortless this type of role appears to be for him. He’s not in this movie much, but he is obviously having a good time when we see him.
Warner’s waxwork is operated out of his mansion in a wealthy suburb. And it seems the high school students Warner entices into seeing his wax museum are way too interested in it, with a couple of them even having some knowledge of the history of the art form.
The excessively interested teens get separated and each, in turn, ends up crossing a magical barrier into a real version of different exhibits. So, a display of a werewolf in a cabin leads to Ashbrook stepping across the velvet rope and finding himself battling an actual werewolf.
What had me confused is Ashbrook’s corpse instantly becomes part of the tableau as soon as he dies. Despite there being the expected pit of boiling wax in the basement, it doesn’t seem like any of the victims need to be dipped in it before becoming a wax figure.
One aspect I didn’t care for is the movie is very gory, even if the tone is often tongue through rotting cheek. A bit where a guy’s leg has been carved up while he’s still alive and conscious was too much for me. And yet, almost immediately after that, I laughed hard when a vampire who accidentally kills herself by backing into a wall of champagne bottles so hard the tops go through her chest. The bottles even pop open and champagne shoots in long arcs across the room.
Probably what I liked best about the picture is how the visual style is tweaked for each exhibit. This especially works in a scene obviously paying homage to Night of the Living Dead. In a nice touch, it is filmed in grainy black-and-white, using a lot of Dutch angles.
In the end, I wasn’t certain whether or not I liked Waxwork. It is a bit of a mess, and the plot does not bear close inspection. Also, the gore crossed a line for me, even when I could tell it was being used in an absurd, comedic manner. All that said, I have thought about this picture far more than I expected and I am even curious about the sequel which is packaged in the same blu-ray set.
Dir: Anthony Hickox
Starring Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, David Warner
Watched on Vestron blu-ray