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Monday, October 15, 2018

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2018-Day 15: WAXWORK (1988)

If David Warner invites you to attend a private midnight showing at his just-appeared-from-out-of-nowhere wax museum, DO. NOT. ACCEPT.

A group of vapid, affluent teens are invited to a private midnight showing at a wax museum curated by a creepy Englishman (David Warner), and each display depicts a scene of gruesome mayhem and horror featuring "the most evil souls that have ever been." Despite the fact that the museum just popped up one day in their suburban neighborhood from literally out of nowhere, the teenagers accept the invitation and are amazed at the ultra-lifelike quality of the wax figures. The friends separate and check out the displays on their own and some of them notice that a number of the setups are missing a key figure to complete the composition. One by one, some the teens step over the threshold of the displays and find themselves transported into the worlds of the settings for real, physically altered to possess period-appropriate clothing and hair, and with no way to get back to their 20th century reality. Once inside the scenarios, horrific fates are inevitable and the waxwork gains a figure. Some of the kids are smart enough to get the hell out of there before the wax museum can claim them, but while attempting to figure out what became of their friends, the police become involved and the simultaneous investigations of the cops and the remaining kids reveal the secrets of the waxwork and its proprietor...

As noted numerous times on this blog, the 1980's were years when the silver screen was dominated by a slew of assembly line slasher movies that seldom displayed any sort of imagination in the bloody horrors they presented. It was all about the tits and gore, and that was that, so when a horror movie came along that offered something more than just endless scenes of cutlery and garden tools penetrating nubile young flesh, it was a real treat. Such was the case when WAXWORK was released, and I was quite happy with what it gave me.

The makers of WAXWORK clearly created it as a love letter to the horror genre, and it shows affectionate (and humorous) respect to the form's archetypes. We get werewolves, Count Dracula (Miles O'Keefe) and his brides, a vengeful mummy, zombies, even the Marquis de Sade (J. Kenneth Campbell), and the scenarios featuring each perfectly evokes the individual flavors of their sources.

The brides of Count Dracula: Reminding us in no uncertain terms that vampires should be terrifying.

The assorted horror scenarios are all a lot of fun, with the sequence at Dracula's castle being such a standout that it made me want to see an entire Dracula movie crafted by these filmmakers. 

It all works just great as a horror anthology in disguise. and it's especially fun for those of us with a deep grounding in horror movie history and lore. It was released in R-rated and unrated versions, and I'm betting the version available on home video is the unrated one, because the violence and gore sometimes veers into seriously nasty territory, particularly in the bits involving the werewolf and Dracula. There are also adult themes involving sexuality (but no nudity), so I'd advise discretion before letting your under-twelves to see it, unless you're ready for a very interesting discussion of exactly what the Marquis de Sade was all about. Personally, I can't wait to sit my niece Aurora through it, but I'm pretty sure Dracula's feast with his minions would freak her the fuck out, so WAXWORK will have to sit on the back burner until she's just a couple of years older. That said, it's a very good little comedy-shocker, with the emphasis more on chills than laughs. RECOMMENDED.

Poster from the theatrical release.

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