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Original Vs. Remake: House of Wax

06.04.2014by: Mike Catalano
Even though I was against it, calling a tie with our last Original Vs. Remake now actually seems like the right call. Judging by everyone's comments, both versions of Piranha offered much to love. The classic suspense was a big plus for Joe Dante's take, while Kelly Brook was a heavy seller for Alexandre Aja's re-telling. Good show!

Today as the summer season continuously heats up, I'm sure people are gonna be melting like wax... which can only mean that it's time to break down both versions of House of Wax! How's that for a segue?! I'm definitely curious to see how the Vincent Price classic holds up against the surprisingly well-made update. Why am I still talking? Let's get it on!

Story
Brilliant wax sculptor, Vincent Price, has his House of Wax burned to the ground by his business partner as an insurance scam. Price was left there to die, but somehow survived, although is badly disfigured. Some time later, he builds a new House of Wax, featuring a Chamber of Horrors with some very lifelike wax figures. For a film from the 1950's, it has one hell of a sick, modern feel!
The remake has a pretty cliched horror movie opening third: group of youngish adults are out on a road trip, meet some hicks, set up a camp, and the next day their car won't work. Forced to find help, the kids happen upon a quiet, old town with a wax museum at its heart. Then all hell breaks loose as the group gets picked off one by one by two sadistic twin brothers, looking to keep their wax figure collection full.
Special Effects
Well, this was 1953, so there wasn't anything too outlandish in the F/X department. But, thankfully, that means we do get all practical effects that help in the realness department. The fire in the house of wax at the beginning came off as very dangerous. And Vincent's scarred visage definitely creeps you out.
Here's where the remake excels nicely! We are treated to numerous gory occurrences nearly all done with gloriously practical effects! I loved how this flick seemed to embrace its R-rated violence with glee. We get a beheading, slicing, stabbing, and a particularly icky piece with a recently "waxed" person having his face peeled away. And, of course, the delicious death of Paris Hilton with a pipe through the head.
Acting
Vincent Price is an absolute master! His delivery with that deep, smooth accent of his is so damn cool, he can make any character believable. No one can even come close to his greatness, however the rest of the supporting cast does a good enough job trying. All performances were definitely better than expected.
Okay, I think it's safe to say that Elisha Cuthbert is more than just a pretty face. I had no problem with her stepping into the shoes of scream queen territory. Chad Michael Murray does a pretty good job also as Elisha's overprotective brother. However, there's no f*cking way I can award a win in an Acting column to a movie with Paris Hilton in it. No. F*cking. Way.
Intensity
We do get that big fire in the beginning. After that, the sight of a scarred Price lurking in the shadows creates a few goosebumps, I suppose, especially when he is following a woman down a dark street. Honestly, there aren't any extremely frightening scenes in the film. The scares are definitely pretty tame.
The creepy wax town as well as two insane killers adds up to some killer instances of fright. The dude in the mask with the long, dark hair really freaked me the f*ck out, especially when he was on the hunt. But what induces the most shivers is when Elisha's man is strapped into that big waxing machine and is made into a mannequin while he's still alive!
Hot Chicks
Phyllis Kirk definitely embodies what would be considered a hottie of the 1950's. She's got a tight little body, pretty face, and flowing blonde hair. Carolyn Jones also gives off a nicely subtle sense of beauty as Phyllis's friend. Of course, neither really do anything that truly blows me away.
Elisha Cuthbert is a goddess. And the way she fills out that stereotypical horror movie heroine white tank top is a beautiful blessing. In fact, she may be even more delectable here as a brunette than she is with her regular blonde locks. And, yes, Paris Hilton does perform the only thing she has a hint of talent at: stripping down to her bra and panties. "That's hot."
Directing
André De Toth does a wonderful job of creating a horror film for the ages. His shots of the wax mannequins really create an eerie atmosphere. I also was a fan of his use of shadows on the streets of New York in the 1890s. While there aren't any extreme jolts, he still crafted a very classic sense of dread that lasts throughout the movie.
I believe that Jaume Collet-Serra is a fantastic horror director and would put him right up there with Alexandre Aja. He's got a fantastic flair for visuals and really keeps the audience's pulse racing through some intense action. Another positive aspect, he actually took the time to develop his characters which helped lift them above typical horror movie cliches.
House of Wax '05
Whoa! This one was damn close! It would appear that we have ourselves another remake besting the original. Even though it pains me to reward anything even remotely associated with that succubus socialite, 2005's stylishly gory House of Wax gets the win. I'm very interested to hear your opinions on this one. These two flicks have a gap of over 50 years between them, which means there's a lot of room for interpretation. Fire them bullets below! And if you have any flicks you'd like to see in this column, give me a shout at [email protected].

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