31 Days of Halloween Hysteria: “Waxwork”

It's a hell of a show...
It’s a hell of a show…

 

There’s nothing like a film studio logo to give any self-respecting nerd an attack of nostalgia.  Witness the 1988 monster movie mash-up, “Waxwork”.   I had only to see the Vestron Pictures logo at the beginning of the movie to be transported to a more innocent age of plastic clamshell VHS  boxes, video recorder tracking wheels and low-budget scare-fests with artwork that promised more epic terror than a poverty row budget could ever deliver.  Yes, streaming is convenient, but there’s no sense of occasion in scrolling through fuzzy cover art on your smartphone screen and then watching a film.

It’s not the movies that got small – it’s the screens.  But, I digress..

Yep, those are some 80's teens alright...
Yep, those are some 80’s teens alright…

 

The film sees a gaggle of upscale, freshly scrubbed college kids taking an ill-advised midnight tour of a new waxwork attraction which has just popped up in suburbia, as if by (spooky laugh) evil magic.  Pausing only to be spooked by in-no-way nefarious proprietor David Warner on the way in, the likes of Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman and Dana Ashbrook find their perfectly maintained 80’s hairdos well and truly messed up when they stray too far into the wax exhibits and zip through a portal into their own, personal horror movies.

If you came of age with the Eli Roth and Alexandre Aja era of horror cinema, there’s a very good chance that “Waxwork” will seem like so much fine fromage:   it boasts practical effects and matte paintings, goofy synthesised scoring and many scenes apparently shot in somebody’s very swish mansion, not to mention a climax which sees Steed himself, the glorious Patrick Macnee, having at the bad guys whilst strapped into what can only be described as a battle chariot-come-wheelchair.

Visceral, transgressive, hackles-raising terror this isn’t.  Cheery B-movie fun it definitely is.

David Warner is a splendidly hissable bad guy but he’s not really a dominant menace as he only pops up periodically to put his diabolical plan into action – the majority of the scaring and teen menacing is done by a right old cornucopia of thesps including John Rhys Davies, Miles O’ Keefe and J. Kenneth Campbell (essaying well-known fictional horror movie staple, the Marquis De Sade).  It’s this film within the film structure which really hit the spot for me – I was particularly taken by the black-and-white segment which pits hero Zach Galligan against a graveyard full of recently arisen zombies as it demonstrates amply that Hickox’s film is a love letter to classic horror.  Indeed, the director gives props to the likes of Argento, Romero, Carpenter and Hammer in the closing credits.

What better way to round out this month of cinematic terrors than to take in a film which celebrates the genre in such a fun fashion?  I can’t imagine anybody but the most woolly of wusses being scared by “Waxwork”, but it’s sheer joy in genre is infectious – it’s the sort of film which makes you want to watch more fright flicks after seeing it.  And what better film to watch on the night that the dead walk and spectres…spectate?

Have a Happy Halloween, Boils and Ghouls!

 

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