Which Wax Works Better? A Wax Museum Sparks Obscure Cinema
By: Chris Darkes - August 31, 2017
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I ended up taking the drive back to Las Vegas. Her sister and brother-in-law were in town for a conference, and we decided to meet up with them. It seems like we take a trip every year. Like clockwork, we packed up the car full of snacks, and sped into the night. The drive is never boring. We usually end up seeing something unusual or spooky we hadn’t the time before. Keeping the streak alive, just as we passed the Primm Valley Resort (about 30 minutes away from Vegas) the sky unleashed a holy hell of rain. It felt like I was looking out of a submarine.
Within seconds, the storm became so blinding, I questioned whether I should keep going or pull over and keep my sanity. I thought about the craps table at the Mirage— and we kept going. Just as quickly as it began, the storm eased up to a medium drizzle the moment we hit the Vegas strip.
After kicking around a few options for the trip, one of the things we unanimously decided to check out was Madam Tussaud. It was the first time I had ever been to a wax museum, and for some reason it piqued my interest. Pretty much what you’d expect. Creepy wax figures waiting to have their picture taken. I liked that the museum gave a glimpse into the history of wax figures, offering some early renderings and concept sketches.
I apparently have a hard time keeping track between reality and imagination, as I had the bizarre thought of what it would be like to accidentally be locked in there. Sort of like Toy Story, where as soon as the humans leave the area, the wax figures come alive.
That created a chain reaction where I was reminded of two obscure movies I had seen awhile back. The first is the super overlooked (big time) B-movie, 1988’s Waxwork. I remember watching it on a rainy Saturday afternoon during the summer, which added to the element of the film. Admittedly, it’s been over 15 years since I had seen the film, but I recall a really interesting premise for such an odd movie. The second was 2005’s House of Wax. My friend, who was an avid horror movie junkie dragged me to see it in theaters back in college. The film was surprisingly entertaining, although I didn’t go in with super high expectations knowing Paris Hilton was one of the cast members. Proving we’re willing to sidestep sub-par acting when the story is enjoyable.
Let’s start with the first: Waxwork. This film is a nod to the old classic monster movies and borrows a few shades from the 1953 Vincent Price classic of a similar name. Without getting too long winded a group of snobby college kids are invited to take part in a special sneak preview of a wax museum that seemingly appears out of nowhere. After entering the main hall, the kids discover sectioned-off exhibits behind velvet ropes depicting almost every classic Hollywood monster movie there is (The Warewolf, Dracula, The Mummy) as well as Jack The Ripper, and Marquis De Sade. What they’re about to find out is past the velvet facade lies the real secret lurking beyond…
Ok that’s a little melodramatic — But once they step foot over the rope, they’re sucked into the dark world of each exhibit. Sort of a movie in a movie. Trapping the unknowing participant in the museum, forever. I’m surprised nobody has reincarnated this into today’s film.
With all the sequels, prequels, and origin stories, it’d be really fun to see a film that takes all the classic horror icons of past, and blend them all into one creative latticework. The film’s major flaw comes down to budget and lack of effects for the time period. I heard the producers attempted but failed to secure the rights to get Jason Vorhees and the alien from The Thing into the film. That alone would have pushed it into cult-like status. It misses the mark a little, and why I truly think it drifted out to sea. The movie gets bonus points for casting Deborah Foreman who also appeared in April Fool’s Day.
The next film is 2005’s House of Wax. It starts out as a road trip story (which you know I’m a sucker for.) But then turns into this bizarre run-for-your-life scenario which finds a group stuck in this weird town where everyone is actually mummified into wax. A strange premise that somehow keeps you entertained, despite the contrived plot. The writers definitely ripped a page from the above film’s book, but it differs to a certain degree. I think it’s less creative, but has the edge because it feels more polished.
I’m definitely not urging anyone to run out and see either of these films; I think it’s interesting that the idea of seeing wax figures still has an appeal. There’s sort of a spectacle about the whole thing. Rethinking the wax museum we visited, the writers probably took a similar stroll.
As for the rest of the trip, it was one for the books. For the first time, we walked the entire length of the strip (stopping just shy of the super seedy part). Some other highlights: everything at The Wynn, The Bellagio Fountains, tasting the drinks from around the world at The World of Coca-Cola, walking the strip, watching people bet on the O.J. Simpson verdict, rolling the dice at the craps table, and of course, people watching. If you’re in Vegas, I’d say skip the wax museum and head over to the Wynn buffet, where you’ll get more bang for your buck, while also finding you’re surrounded by a similar number of characters.
Also published on Medium.