Halloween horror marathon: Waxwork

poster-waxworkEven after watching it uncensored on DVD, I'm still not convinced Waxwork wasn't a made-for-TV movie. The production values are low. Not "Ed Wood" low, but certainly "late '80s TV movie" low. I'd certainly say your average episode of Tales From the Crypt would outdo any of the effects contained within Waxwork's running time. However, that's what really adds to the film's charm. It's got a paper-thin plot, bad effects (the wax figures are people holding very, very still), and enough strange character developments to befuddle a soap opera scribe. You've got Zach Galligan basically acting like the mirror universe version of Gremlins' Billy Peltzer for the first part of the movie, then suddenly becoming a nice guy interested in saving Deborah Foreman's character. It's just one aspect of repeated unexplained phenomena in the movie. Why is there a midget? Why is the waxwork in the middle of a tony neighborhood? Why is Sarah so utterly obsessed with the Marquis de Sade? If you just sit back and accept that various aspects of the movie are under-explained, while others get expositioned to death (how the waxworks claim their victims, especially), you get to enjoy the fact that the film essentially sets the foundation for movies which would follow, like Scream and Cabin in the Woods. Waxwork is a movie about horror movies. Each little scene is a short horror film, referencing a classic work (usually Universal horror -- vampire, werewolf, mummy), although less public-domain works do find their way in -- there's even a brief glimpse of a hockey-masked giant at one point. The end, wherein all of the creatures are released, is certainly something to which Cabin in the Woods owes its grand finale. waxwork-mummy Ultimately, however, while Waxwork might as well be a made-for-TV movie, it's only in terms of budget. For 90% of the film, it's a series of very clean, well-lit bits of pop horror that have more in common with Are You Afraid of the Dark? than most of the era's horror flick. But there are these moments that really make for some disturbing viewing. Sarah's interaction with the Marquis, which might be the most straightforward addressing of S&M in a mainstream film ever. Seriously, it's just all of a sudden -- "Hey, Sarah gets off on getting whipped!" Literally. It's rather uncomfortable, and elevates the film from being a basic bit of fluff to something that manages to get truly disturbing. Much is the same with the man being kept alive and eaten bit-by-bit by the vampires. His leg is gruesome, and the fact that it's brightly lit makes it arguably more fucked-up than anything in Hostel.