Film Length: 97/104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (1.33:1)
Audio: DD 2.0 Stereo Surround (both films)
Subtitles: English (both films)
Most horror fans growing up during the 1980’s were too young to check their favorite slashers out on the big screen so those weekend trips to the rental house is where he got our entertainment. The 80’s was a blessing and a curse for horror fans because while there were some classic films these here opened the floodgates to some of the worst films ever made, which usually went straight to video. Some of the straight to video stuff was actually pretty good but most of the time they were simply forgotten.
I first stumbled upon Waxwork on Cinemax, which was a horror fiends best friend. I had heard that this was a very good, old fashioned horror film that had all of the good stuff. I don’t believe the film ever got a theatrical release, although some claim that it did. Either way, this is the perfect example of a film finding its core audience on video and cable showings. Fourteen years after being made Waxwork has built a huge cult following. Of course, since there were fans producer’s got the idea for a sequel, which happened six years later in Waxwork 2: Lost in Time.
In the first film a group of teenagers are invited to a special midnight screening of a new wax museum being hosted by Mr. Lincoln (David Warner). The six friends show up and immediately split up to look at the exhibits. These aren’t your typical Vincent Price wax figures though, each one tells a different story of death and murder and when the guests cross the ropes they are transported to the strange and deadly world, which the exhibits showed.
Tony (Dana Ashbrook) crosses the ropes and enters the world of werewolves. The slut China (Michele Johnson) gets her wishes granted when she is thrown into a beautiful castle with a beautiful man but unfortunately this man turns out to be Count Dracula himself. When the two don’t show up at school the next day their friends decide to go to the police who turn out to be no help at all. So, with nothing left to lose they travel back to the wax museum where more horror stories come to life.
Waxwork is a decent little chiller, which certainly deserves the cult following its gotten over the past decade or so. The film is far from perfect but God knows the horror community has had to suffer through a lot worse. While there are some bad things in the film the good outweigh them, which makes the film worth viewing. The best thing about the movie is the short stories that deal with the characters going back to deal with various monsters ranging from vampires, werewolves, mummies and even the living dead. These segments are very short, which is a good thing because they leave the story behind and get down to the action, which is delivered in good gory fun.
Another good aspect is the actual effects, which are pretty damn good especially considering the budget of the film. The werewolf transformation, while not in the same league as The Howling, is still very good looking. The best sequence is the one dealing with the mummy, which is full of wonderful atmosphere and a good little chill as the mummy comes to life. The one bad thing about the movie is all the time spent outside the wax museum. The very stupid plot about the investigation is useless, boring and takes away from all the fun. Had the film been trimmed by ten or fifteen minutes Waxwork would have been a lot better.
Waxwork 2 has very little to do with the first film and how the two are tired together is fairly weak. The two survivors from the first film think they are safe but a hand escaped the wax museum and followed them home. That night the hand kills Sarah’s stepfather and she is accused for the murder, which also ties her to the wax museum so she is changed with killing those people. The court isn’t buying the hand thing so Sarah along with Mark must travel back in time to collect evidence to clear her.
This here is where the film takes off but instead of wax figures we are dealt several short stories that try to pay homage to previous horror classics. The first adventure has the due battling Dr. Frankenstein and his deformed monster. Up next we get a spoof of Robert Wise’s The Haunting as well as a Aliens spin. Dawn of the Dead, Nosferatu, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Jack the Ripper are amongst the spoofs here. The film pays homage to at least fifteen other horror classics as well.
I’m really not sure what to say about Waxwork 2. For starters, the film is pretty much far away from the original film so I’m guessing the title was just thrown on there to attract fans of the first film. This film has some very good moments but the thing simply runs way too long. This movie should have ran no longer than 80-minutes but instead we get 105-minutes worth of spoofs, which sometimes work but more often than not they fall flat on their face. There’s some gory action, which is fun but we’ve still got way too much to sit through just for that. Fans of the Evil Dead series will enjoy the cameo by Bruce Campbell.
NOTE: The first film was released in America on VHS in an R-rated version as well as an unrated version, which runs a little longer and contains some extra gore. This unrated version is also available on R2 from Dragon. This Artisan disc is the R-rated version however. Update 9/12/03: I finally found someone who could give me the total runtime on the uncut LD and it runs the exact same time as what's on this DVD. The LD did run seven seconds longer but this was just promo stuff and nothing to do with the film. So, the DVD is uncut.
VIDEO---Both films are shown full frame (4:3), which I believe is the correct ratio. I know for certain that the second film was shot this way but there has been some debate over the first films aspect ratio. If it did get a theatrical release I’m guessing it was just matted and that the video releases are open matte. I was pleasantly surprised to see Waxwork looking so good. This here is certainly a lot better than the VHS and countless airings on network television. The colors are fairly strong throughout, although a few scenes appear a bit soft. The Dracula segment has the softest looking colors. There’s some speckles that appear throughout the film but this are rather small and aren’t distracting at all. Grain is also very light here, which wasn’t the case for previous releases. The second film also looks very good but the transfer is a bit too soft. There are a few speckles that appear and a couple of the scenes (especially in the Frankenstein segment) appear a little too dark.
AUDIO---Both films come with Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround tracks. You certainly won’t be using these to show off your Home Theater System but what we have here is pretty nice. Both tracks are free of any hiss or scratches and the dialogue is clear and easy to understand.
EXTRAS---You get an insert if that means anything to you.
OVERALL---I know many people will be unhappy that the unrated version wasn’t released but personally I really don’t think it makes a major difference in the film. Plus, you’re getting two movies for under $10 so if you’re a fan I’m sure you’ll want this double feature in your collection. Both films feature a nice transfer and the audio is fine as well. No extras are included but again, for the price tag you really can’t be too disappointed.
Release Date: September 23, 2003