"It is wax, like... literally."

‘House of Wax’ (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2005)

Poster for shit

It’s easy to take the name of something for granted. While leafing through a book recently I stumbled across an explanation of the job title “Foley Artist”. I’m sure I knew this, but clearly my brain disagreed. Between my knowing it and re-knowing it, my brain decided that ‘Foley’ was either a piece of equipment, such as a special microphone, or a mixing desk of some sort specific to sound effects.

Jack FoleyJack Foley died in 1967 and has an entire art named after him. I’m struggling to think of anyone else who can make that claim. Imagine being so good at your job, that people would later carry on that work in your name. It really is an art form too and in such a genre specific film such as horror or science fiction the art becomes more challenging. Creating real world sounds should be relatively straightforward, but creating sounds such as “Man’s face peeling off under wax mask” must be both an exciting challenge and a depressing realisation that you’re working on a truly shit film and performing art in the name of a pioneer in a medium that is eating its own tail.

I’d hate to think I had any sort of expectations of a film before watching it, but the original ‘House of Wax’ (Andre De Toth, 1953) with its ridiculous 3D effects, early Charles Bronson appearance and Vincent Price is a truly enjoyable, though certainly not great film. If one was going to remake the film, one would have to be sure that one was improving on it, otherwise what would be the point? You don’t bake a nice cake and then bake another one to see if you can make it less enjoyable. This is where Jaume Collet-Serra and I part company because Jaume Collet-Serra believes it’s his job to take a perfectly acceptable film and, in cinematic terms, sexually molest it until it’s left weeping, bleeding and shaking on the kitchen floor of his two-bed, semi-detached shithouse of horror. Prick caption

I like horror as a genre. But horror films, like any other genre, have multiple sub-genres. Take comedy for instance; you can have romantic comedies, screwball comedies, comedies where Lenny Henry wears make-up to make him white with hilarious consequences and even horror comedies. Horror comedies can be both intentional and unintentional and while some would stick an ironic tongue in their cheek and claim ‘House of Wax’ is so bad it’s good, consequently earning it a ‘funny’ label, it is in fact so bad it’s unacceptable that money was spent in such a frivolous way. With a budget of around $30 million you’d think Jaume Collet-Serra would feel some pang of guilt or unceasing, sleepless remorse over his inexcusable and sloppy acts. He doesn’t. If he did he wouldn’t be remaking more films such as ‘Akira’ (Katsuhiro Ohtomo, 1988). $30 million could change the lives of so many people. It could keep a hospital open, provide shelter for the homeless, help a family struggling on income support, educate children – christ even spending the bloody lot on whores and heroin would be preferable to producing shit like this.

Pan for sauce 1There are two saving graces to this travesty. One is the saucepan. A strangely named item in this modern world since I think I’ve only ever made a proper sauce for anything eight times in my life. The rest of the time I use a saucepan for boiling veg, making custard, steaming stuff, collecting the drops of water that used to leak under our sink. In the opening sequence of Collet-Serra’s salute to filmic masturbation we glimpse a gorgeous seventies style saucepan (being used to melt wax – also not a sauce). This exact same saucepan used to sit in our kitchen in Chessington when I was little. It would mainly be used for rice, something of a novelty back then. Also not a sauce. My dad had worked out that the brown plastic lid from a jar of Maxwell House was the perfect size for a cup of rice and used it to portion out the seed accurately. Pan for sauce 2Typically we’d have the rice with either a bland curry with sultanas in it (I hated the sultanas in curry. They delivered a sweet note with a texture of slug that made me gag) or a seventies, Fanny Craddock-inspired goulash. That saucepan was a solid workhorse. It fed me throughout my childhood with its brown and orange rings. I’ve never owned one like it since.

This is where my interest in the film tailed off. Quite frankly anything could’ve happened after that for all I know. Aside from the second saving grace in the form of some lovely design work/architecture on the eponymous House, the rest of the film isn’t worthy of dissection or critique. It was made to offend, upset and leave you feeling optically and aurally violated. There is no art here. There is no love of the medium or responsibility to provide entertainment to others. It is merely a two hour insult to the ticket-holder, akin to a billionaire lighting the farts of tramps with $50 bills and charging them $100 for the privilege. Nobody in this film wanted to entertain, interest or delight you. They hate you. They’re disdainful of you. As far as they’re concerned you are a potential humiliating sale, and once you’ve parted with your money they’ll point and laugh at you for being the prick you are for wanting to watch this abysmal, lackadaisical sham of a film.

I didn’t like it.

More pan.

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