House of Wax (2005) DVD Review

Written by Sham

DVD released by Warner Home Video

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes, story by Charles Belden
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 113 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on October 25th, 2005

Elisha Cuthbert as Carly
Chad Michael Murray as Nick
Brian Van Holt as Bo/Vincent
Paris Hilton as Paige
Jared Padalecki as Wade
Jon Abrahams as Dalton


“You can get used to anything if you’re around it long enough,” says a character in the 2005 remake of House of Wax.

Will audiences ever get used to remakes?

Look at it this way: This new House of Wax will never be as appreciated as its 1953 predecessor, starring the late, but great, Vincent Price. It was one of the first horror pictures of Price’s prestigious film career, and it is largely considered a landmark B-horror movie that greatly separated itself from the genre.

Why tamper with it, right?

But when you think about it, Price’s House of Wax was itself a remake of another movie from 1933: The Mystery of the Wax Museum, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring screen and stage actor Lionel Atwill.

So why can’t moviegoers accept the fact that it was remade once again for modern audiences? After all, Price’s House of Wax was not perfect. It was just a fun B-movie.

Just like the previous two, this new House of Wax is also a B-movie, but it’s produced by A-movie filmmakers with an A-movie budget.

And ultimately, it’s a slick, stylish, brutal, and exceptionally well-photographed horror film that takes its time with its characters, and even more time making them suffer. This is one of the year’s very best horror films.

In the vein of 1979’s Tourist Trap, which concerned a telekinetic wax museum owner who uses his mannequins to murder tourists, House of Wax stars Elisha Cuthbert (The Girl Next Door) as the lead of the movie, Carly. She and her twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray – Freaky Friday), her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki – Cry_Wolf), and three of her friends (Paris Hilton – The Cat in the Hat; Robert Ri’chard – Light It Up; Jon Abrahams – Scary Movie) are on their way to the biggest football game of the season.

Instead of driving to the game overnight, they decide to stop in the desolate countryside to get some rest.

But things get weird. Really weird.

First, a mysterious truck driver stalks the kids at their campsite. Then Wade has car trouble in the morning, and Carly has an accident that lands her face-first into a massive heap of dead animal carcasses.

All of this connects to Ambrose, a small town just fifteen miles from the highway. In Ambrose is the House of Wax, an attraction with so many realistic wax sculptures that it’s almost scary!

Inside the House of Wax are two brothers (both played by Brian Van Holt – S.W.A.T.).

One is deformed. One is not. Both are killers.

And they’ve taken up a hobby turning the town’s inhabitants into wax sculptures. They’re looking to add to their collection.

First-time director, Jaume Collet-Serra, and cinematographer, Stephen F. Windon, have a keen eye for detail, and they enhance the fantastic production values by illuminating the set-pieces to their prevalent splendor. The camera looms on the dread and the kills, which are some of the best in a slasher movie in ages. However, some of the best cinematography in the movie can be seen in the climax, in which the House of Wax, actually made from real wax, melts to the ground with the remaining characters still inside suffering.

And that’s the beauty of it all. Everyone suffers. Even those who survive.

The death scenes are much like the movie’s pacing. The killer is in no hurry to dispatch these characters. And during a death scene, the camera is in no hurry to turn away when the viewer expects it to. Gore fans will certainly get a kick out of this stuff. The movie doesn’t shy away from what makes the queasy hurl and the depraved cheer.

The movie has energy, too. The chase scenes are fun and gripping, particularly the sequence where Paris Hilton is attacked by one of the killers in an abandoned sugar mill. And let’s just say the climax of this scene is the icing on the cake for the whole movie. Ouch, Ms. Hilton!

Heck, even the acting is decent. Brian Van Holt is excellent as the two killers, Bo and Vincent. He’s charismatic when he needs to be and frightening when it counts. He’s certainly the shining star of House of Wax. Elisha Cuthbert is also great. When her character sees her friends dead for the first time, you can practically feel the anguish inside her. Cuthbert’s physical emotions are very prominent. Even Paris Hilton, who I expected to do terrible, impressed me. True, the director cunningly keeps her hidden away through most of the movie, but when she is onscreen, her presence is striking and her performance is acceptable.

The special effects are also tolerable and, at times, very convincing. The most obvious use of CGI is when the House of Wax burns to the ground, and also when a villain’s grotesquely deformed face is revealed. Prosthetics are the best of the effects, however, as finger dismemberments, face removals, and arrow impalements highlight the experience.

And what an experience House of Wax is! It’s not going to win any major awards, but it does what it sets out to do – it takes audiences back to the good old days of slasher flicks when stupidity got you killed and horror was fun.

And it does one heck of a job at it.

Video and Audio:

House of Wax is presented in its theatrical debut of a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. Picture quality isn’t impressive due to some macroblocking in the dead animal pit sequence, which seems hazy and fainted. But other than this one scene, everything is clean without any grain or noticeable artifacts. It should be understood that the movie’s style is in the vein of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, where the picture is purposely jaded to augment the effect of the horror. In that perspective, the movie looks really good.

The score by John Ottman is memorable and impressive, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound enhances the experience. Warner Bros. have yet to disappoint me with audio quality, and House of Wax is no exception as it sounds terrific.

Special Features:

  • B-Roll and Bloopers Video Cast Commentary
  • Wax On
  • House Built on Wax
  • Gag Reel
  • Alternate Open: Jennifer Killed
  • From Location: Joel Silver Reveals House of Wax
  • Theatrical Trailer

The video cast commentary (featuring stars Elisha Cuthbert, Paris Hilton, Chad Michael Murray, and Jared Padalecki) is a lot of fun. The actors have obviously become friends during the making of this film as they poke fun at each other quite a few times (especially Murray and Padalecki who pick on each other for their lines “it is, literally!” and “are you saying that’s a real person underneath?”) Each of the performers has a good sense of humor and their own filmmaking experiences to make this 27 minute commentary an entertaining watch.

“Wax On” is an eight minute featurette that talks about the production of Ambrose. Grace Walker’s design of the town is his best exertion with Dark Castle Entertainment. Jaume Collet-Serra also discusses working with the wax medium and the many uses of the wax in the film. While decent, this segment could’ve been much longer.

“House Built on Wax,” a 10-minute behind-the-scenes look at the visual effects, is definitely one of the DVD’s best features. Like the featurette “Wax On,” this segment is relatively short, but the information presented by the visual effects crew make it a must-watch. The special effects team put a lot of work into this film, and it shows as they discuss how they made the House of Wax melt, how the deformed a character’s face, and how they made the wax look real.

The 4-minute gag reel is the next feature, and it’s hit or miss. Some bloopers are funny while others are tame. Most of what is shown here can be seen in the video cast commentary.

“The Alternate Open: Jennifer Killed” is a necessary cut. The death itself would’ve been an interesting way to open the movie, but then it would’ve interfered with the film’s pacing, and I’m glad it wasn’t included in the final version of the movie.

“From Location: Joel Silver Reveals House of Wax” is a two minute introduction to the film. The end of this feature is corny, but oddly suiting. I’m sure Joel Silver had fun with it.

The final special feature is the theatrical trailer.


Movie: 4 Stars – A gripping, gruesome, and first-rate guilty pleasure.
Video: 4 Stars – Despite one sequence, the picture looks great.
Audio: 4.5 Stars – The score is memorable and the 5.1 Surround Sound is impressive.
Features: 3.5 Stars – A decent amount of bonus material enhances the disc quality.
Overall: 4 Stars – It may not be Price’s House of Wax, but it’s a damn entertaining slasher movie with some of the best kills in recent memory. Above all else, the DVD has enough special features to warrant a purchase.


House of Wax is arguably one of the year’s best horror movies.

And on a DVD with great picture, audio, and bonus material, why wait to purchase it?

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