Thursday, October 18, 2012

Swapping Scarecrows For Working Wax

I know I haven’t been celebrating the greatest month of all with the usual candy corn fueled fervor I keep in reserve, but times have been busy here in the actual Doll’s House. After apartment hunting with more gusto than Gary Busey bare handing it in Surviving the Game, I’ve since moved on to the act of packing with more reluctance than Paul Rudd cleaning up his breakfast tray in Wet Hot American Summer. Still to come: the part where my fella and I face the first real test of our relationship by battling for poster space, followed by my cats meeting/hopefully not killing their new stepsisters.

You might say I’ve been stressed.

But thankfully, there’s one semi-monthly tradition that always soothes the crazed soul: the Lightning Bugg Doll’s House Swaparoo! In honor of the glory of October, T.L. Bugg and I went the good old fashioned Instant Watch horror route. Over at his Lair, I assigned Zach one of those VHS staples of the ‘80s that always warmed my straw heart: 1988’s Scarecrows.

My assignment? That very same year’s cult horror comedy Waxwork.

It has a little person butler and everything!

Quick Plot: In a sunny college town, a group of spoiled university students stumble upon a ‘hey, how’d that get there overnight?’ wax museum called Waxwork run by none other than genre stalwart David Warner. This is awesome on its own, but get ready to pick up some messy pieces as I make your head explode:

He’s dressed as if he ransacked Willy Wonka’s closet.

As if that wasn’t enough, he also heads a satanic wax museum with the best security system of all time. See, if any of the wanderers dare to cross that oh-so-tempting velvet rope, he or she ends up transported to an alternate dimension where the scene of the waxy display is real. That would be fine if Waxwork focused on happy periods in history, like discovering the cure to polio or the day peanut butter met banana. 

Then again, when was the last time you entered a wax museum and didn’t leave with a nagging sense of the icks? They’re inherently creepy places. Even the purely historical one I visited in Virginia a few years back seemed designed to steal the souls of every patron.

The scenes on display inside Waxwork are more in line with horror fans than history hunters, with vampires, werewolves, mummies, and phantoms luring our snarky teens into grizzly fates. The wealthy brat Mark (played by Face of the 80s Zach Galligan) and hungry virgin Sarah make it through the night, but there’s still another day of battle to wage.

You know how there are some films that other people seem to adore, yet the one time you tried to watch it you just couldn’t keep your eyes on the screen? That was how I always felt about Waxwork, perhaps in part because its first big sequence involves werewolves. As I’ve said before, it’s a monster that just doesn’t do anything for me one way or another. While I can appreciate the metaphorical aspect of man’s darker side (or menstruation metaphor of a female’s redder one), I generally find the execution to be either dull or just plain silly looking.

Such was my initial experience with Waxwork a few months ago, when I sat down to what I had always assumed was an ‘80s horror movie about killer wax mannequins but is, whaddya know? actually a comedy more focused on throwback horror monsters. Writer/director Anthony Hickox (he of the decent Hellraiser III) is clearly having a ball with giving us classic movie villains with an ever so slight twist. It’s not many an ‘80s teen horror film that would feature a fencing duel between its unlikable antihero and a pirate-styled Marquis de Sade, but Waxwork seems intent on being something special.

I see that now.

High Points
There’s a character named China (played by Michelle Johnson) who responds quite smartly to her vampiric dilemma. In a period where even the bravest final girl usually ran through boxes of Kleanex before lucking into victory, it’s nice to see a female character (and one presented as the bitchy slut at that) use her wits when needed

Any final reel that involves wheelchair-bound old dudes battling zombies, vampires, axe-wielders and werewolves can’t be half bad!

Low Points
Due to my intense discomfort with wax figures, I would have liked to see Waxwork utilize that fear factor a little more, rather than focusing so much on some of its Universal tributes

Lessons Learned
Having drinks with the butler leads to anarchy

If you think of completely raw, possibly human meat as steak tartar, it goes down slightly easier

Dictators have the shouting voices and the small mustaches

Stray Confusion
John Rhys-Davies 

Jonathan Rhys Meyers:

Not the same person. One day, I'll understand that.

Now streaming on Instant Watch, Waxwork is good fun so long as you know that’s what you’re getting. I think my initial humbug reaction came from expectation: I wanted a waxy horror film and got an affectionate horror comedy. Thankfully, this time around I wanted a good time and Waxwork is busting with that. 

Thanks as always to my righteous recommender Zach. To see what that southern fried lightning bug thought of Scarecrows (an eerie little dark ride that I’ve always felt deserved more love) then grab some corn on the cob for the ride and head on over!


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I rewatched it recently to see if it was still as much campy fun as I remember as a teen, and I think I had a better time with it now. Glad you had a similar experience with your second watch.

    Also I get John and Jonathan confused as well. Anytime I have to mention one of them, I have to google it to make sure i have the right name on the right fellow. It sure would have been different if John Rhys-Davies played Henry V and Elvis and Jonathan Rhys Meyers was on Sliders and a dwarf in LOTR.

    On a final note, Happy Halloween to my favorite Deadly Doll and movie swap mistress.

  2. I would love to see someone do a montage that swaps all of Rhys-Davies roles with Rhys-Meyers. I'm most excited to see Rhys-Davies don Rhys Meyers leather pants and pasties for the Julie Taymore Titus. Call me sick like that.

    Good trade all around! Happy Halloween to my favorite glowing buzzer!