Sometimes They Come Back is here to take a look at the horror genre and its love for remakes! We’ll be discussing both the original movie and its remake (sometimes multiple remakes) in detail before deciding who comes out on top! Are the originals always the best? Let’s find out!
This month I decided to do something a little different. For Halloween, I thought it would be fun to tackle my first multiple-movie article, and the House of Wax series was the first that came to mind. However, while House of Wax (2005) is officially a remake of House of Wax (1953), which is, in turn, a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), there is also a film which I feel deserves an honourable mention, and that is Tourist Trap (1979). Because whether they meant to or not, House of Wax (2005) is probably a closer remake of Tourist Trap than it is of either of the older movies.
As I feel it would be unfair to compare Tourist Trap to the older wax-based movies which it has little connection to, we’re going to look at House of Wax (2005) vs those movies first, and then vs Tourist Trap to see if House of Wax (2005) can win either battle against these classic horrors.
Got that? Then let’s go!
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
We open on a wax museum in London, which is filled with a lot of real people in place of wax models (I’m guessing because that many wax models would be expensive), but a wax museum nevertheless. Our wax artist, Ivan Igor, is carving a new wax model when two men turn up to be shown around the museum. One is his friend Dr Rasmussen, and the other is a potential investor, Mr Galatalin, who is very interested in Igor’s beautiful wax creations, including his masterpiece Marie Antoinette.
Igor explains he swapped to creating wax models as wax made it easier to recreate the flesh and make his work look more lifelike. Mr Galatalin is so impressed by Igor’s collection that he offers to submit it to the Royal Academy and the pair leave.
For a wax museum in the middle of the night, Igor sure does have a lot of visitors, and next up is his business partner Joe Worth. Disillusioned by the fact that they are losing all their business to the house of horrors-style wax museum down the street, Joe wants to pull out of the investment, and the lure of the waxworks being submitted to the Royal Academy does little to change his mind. Instead, he wants to set fire to the museum so he and Igor can split the insurance money between them.
Shockingly, Igor is less than thrilled at the idea of his entire life’s work being burned, so the two get into a huge fight as the fire spreads through the museum. Joe decides to get rid of two problems at once and locks Igor inside to die.
Cut to New Year’s Eve in New York 12 years later, and Igor is seen peeping out an apartment window as a body is removed from the building across the street. The beautiful actress Joan Gale has apparently committed suicide, and once her body is placed in the morgue, a deformed man appears from under one of the sheets after pretending to be a dead body. He steals Joan’s body and lowers it out the window on a rope to two men waiting below.
Joe Worth is also in New York now, apparently conducting some shady business, as he calls an unknown associate, saying he needs something right away.
We’re then introduced to Florence Dempsey, a spunky newspaper reporter who gets fired by her editor unless she can start bringing in some worthwhile news. Let’s be honest here, Florence is the best character in the whole movie. Having heard of Joan Gale’s suicide, she uses her connections at the police station to head to the morgue and find out more about it. While they’re waiting for the body to be wheeled out they mention Joan had a lot of a drug in her system which could have been used to poison her, but also could have been suicide. However, when the body turns out to have been stolen, everyone begins to think she has indeed been murdered, with the blame falling at the feet of her boyfriend George. Florence phones her editor to share her scoop and heads to the jail to interview George, who she believes to be innocent.
Igor, meanwhile, is back in the wax game and is opening a new wax museum in New York. Unfortunately, his earlier run-in with Joe Worth means he is now in a wheelchair, and his hands are badly burnt, leaving him unable to work. Instead, he has hired a few associates to help him rebuild his wax collection – Professor Darcy, Hugo, a deaf-mute, and Ralph. Ralph’s fiancee also happens to be Charlotte, who is Florence’s roommate.
Both Florence and Charlotte head to the museum to visit Ralph, where they are greeted by the museum’s latest addition – Joan of Arc – who bears more than a little resemblance to Joan Gale. While Florence is getting a better look at the figure, she finds what looks like the remains of a toe tag, but someone steals it from her pocket before she can leave with it. Igor is also using the time to get a better look at Charlotte, who is the spitting image of his original Marie Antoinette figure.
Florence may think George is a nice guy, but on his release from jail, we see him meeting Joe Worth and exchanging money with him. Now that’s he’s free, Florence asks him to meet her at the museum grand opening that night, presumably to help her find out once and for all what’s going on with the wax figure that looks freakily like his dead girlfriend. George waits outside in his car, and Florence heads inside.
While Igor is showing an eager crowd around the museum, he sends Professor Darcy out on a mission – the most important thing in his life apparently. Florence follows Professor Darcy in George’s car, and when Charlotte shows up at the museum, Igor decides to close early for the night.
Professor Darcy arrives at Joe Worth’s building, where it turns out he has been working for him as well as for Igor. Florence breaks into the building as well and ends up in the basement, where she is cornered by the deformed man from the morgue. After he acts particularly shifty around a suspiciously coffin-style box, he leaves, and Florence is able to make her escape.
As she runs to George’s car, the police are already on the scene and wondering what George is doing hanging around in a dark street, so they’re quick to investigate the scene. Professor Darcy makes a run for it when he spots the police presence, and while some of the police take off after him, the rest head instead to investigate the contents of the dodgy box. It turns out merely to contain bootleg alcohol, and George confesses that Joe Worth is indeed his bootlegger, hence the dodgy money swap earlier.
While the police are interrogating Professor Darcy, then find a stopwatch among his belongings which belongs to a judge who has been missing for some time. He claims he found the watch in a taxi, but the police don’t believe him, and as they recognise him as a well-known drug user, they decide to leave him struggling with his addiction in the hopes it will pull a confession out of him.
Meanwhile, Charlotte is stuck in the wax museum with Hugo and his weirdo assistant. Believing her boyfriend to be in the workroom she goes down to surprise him, only to be cornered by Igor, who it turns out can walk after all!
Back at the police station Professor Darcy finally cracks and admits that Igor has been killing people and turning them into wax models. “The whole place is a morgue, you hear?” he shouts. The police realise they better head over to the wax museum as quickly as possible.
As Charlotte tries to make her escape from the now very mobile Igor, she hits him in the face, revealing he has been wearing a wax mask all along and is, in fact, the deformed man! He opens a cupboard in the basement to reveal his dead ex-partner Joe Worth, which was the secret task Professor Darcy has been helping him with for most of the movie. Igor plans to cover Charlotte in wax while she’s still alive, and prepares possibly the largest vat of molten wax I’ve ever seen. Luckily the police and Florence arrive and manage to break into the basement. A fight ensues, and in the struggle, Igor falls into the vat of wax and dies.
Charlotte is saved from her waxy fate at the last moment when Ralph pushes the table out of the stream of hot wax.
With everyone saved, Florence heads back to her office to fill her editor in on the full story, and he’s so impressed he proposes to her. Despite the fact he’s been nothing but a petty dick to her the entire movie, and George told her he loved her in the car earlier, she decides to stick with her editor and accepts his proposal.
House of Wax (1953)
So let’s move on to the first remake – House of Wax (1953). We’ve dropped the mystery from the title, and we’re focussing more on the horror elements with this film. The set up for this movie is the same; however, the plot has been condensed in some places to make it a little easier to follow.
Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price) is a talented wax creator, who owns a wax museum in New York City. His partner Matthew Burke is unhappy with the amount of money they are bringing in, due to the fact the wax figures focus more on historical figures and less on horror and the macabre. He wants his investment money back so he can put it into something else, but Jarrod assures him a well-known art critic, Mr Wallace, is coming to tour the museum, and he may be willing to make an investment and buy Burke out.
The art critic loves the wax figures and is interested in investing, but he won’t be in the position to do it for around three months. While Jarrod is happy with this offer, Burke says he can’t wait that long and sets the museum on fire in order to claim the insurance money. Again, Burke leaves Jarrod to die with his wax figures, and Jarrod appears to perish in the fire.
We cut to Burke hanging out at a party with his beautiful girlfriend Cathy (Carolyn Jones), as he boasts about the insurance money he just received. After months of trying to sort the issue out, he has finally been granted both halves of the money after the insurance company agreed Jarrod was probably dead, despite there being no clear evidence that this is the case.
When Burke returns home, he opens a safe containing the insurance money and is quickly dispatched of by a deformed figure in black who was hiding in his apartment. The deformed man then hangs Burke’s body from the lift shaft to make it look as though he has committed suicide.
We move to Cathy and her roommate Sue, who both live at the same boarding house. Cathy seems quite unconcerned that the man she wanted to marry has just killed himself, so she’s off on a date with a sexy older man. Sue meanwhile is running low on funds and doesn’t have the money to cover her rent this month. She heads to a job interview with the hopes of securing a job, but Cathy promises to help cover her rent if she is unsuccessful.
When Sue returns from her interview without a job, her landlady sends her upstairs right then and there to ask Cathy to cover her rent, or she’s not staying in the house that night. When Sue arrives upstairs, she finds Cathy dead in her bed and the deformed man skulking about in the corner. She makes a break for it out the window, though her screams alert the boarding house staff, who call the police.
The deformed man chases her through the streets for a significant amount of time, where I’m not sure why she doesn’t just circle back to the boarding house, or run towards to police carriage she sees at one point. Eventually, she makes it to a family friend’s house, where the mother and the son Scott welcome her in.
Over at the morgue, the medical staff discuss the fact it looks as though Cathy was poisoned and then strangled with a rope, though they don’t get the chance for any further investigation, as the deformed man sneaks in and steals her body.
Meanwhile, Jarrod is seen to be opening a new wax museum. Now in a wheelchair with terribly burnt hands, Jarrod relies on his assistants the deaf-mute Igor (played by a young Charles Bronson) and the alcoholic Leo to create his masterpieces for him. Jarrod is opening a new museum, which will give the public what they want – shock and horror! He wants to showcase crimes of the past and present and has a very up-to-date installation in the form of a wax figure of his old business partner Burke hanging in a lift shaft. Jarrod invites Mr Wallace, the art critic from the beginning of the movie, to see if he is still interested in investing as he needs more money to ensure the museum is a success.
The museum opens to a large crowd, where the attendees are so shocked some of them faint at the terrifying exhibits on offer. Sue and Scott attend the opening of the museum, where it turns out Scott knows Mr Wallace, and Jarrod offers Scott a job at the museum as one of his sculptors.
Sue is particularly interested in the model of Joan of Arc, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her friend Cathy. “That’s Cathy’s face!” she insists, but Jarrod claims he saw her photo in the newspaper and decided to base Joan of Arc on her features. Both Mr Wallace and Jarrod mention that Sue looks very like Jarrod’s original Marie Antoinette, which should be her cue to get the hell out of there.
While Sue is asleep that night (with her window wide open, despite the fact Cathy’s murderer is still at large and knows where she’s living) the deformed man uses a grappling hook to swing across to her building and enter her room. Sue’s screams alert Scott’s mother, and Sue believes she must have been dreaming.
Sue and Scott head out for a night on the town, but Sue is still hung up on Cathy. She notes that Cathy only had one ear pierced and that Jarrod managed to replicate that in the wax model, even though it would have been very difficult to tell from one photo that she only had her right ear pierced. Even though Scott clearly thinks she’s being a hysterical woman, they decide to go to the police station to share this information. However, the police confirm that Jarrod came to see Cathy’s case photos (which is a weird thing in itself when she has literally just been murdered) and that neatly explains all of Sue’s worries away.
The police head to the museum to check up on Jarrod, and Sue talks to Leon, who claims to have created the wax model of Joan of Arc himself. She asks him if he would copy details as small as her having both her ears pierced, in order to trick him, and he says Jarrod would have been very unhappy with him if he had missed even a tiny detail such as that. Jarrod also wants Sue to model for him, which she should definitely say no to as he gives off a major creepy vibe as it is.
The police comment on how Burke’s wax figure is there and how another figure looks like a missing judge, but they never once think it slightly weird that there are at least three figures in this museum who look like missing bodies. Poor Sue never stood a chance with these guys – she’s far too logical.
The police do however recognise Leon as a local criminal and known alcoholic and decide to take him in for questioning. In his pockets they find the pocket watch of the missing judge, and book him on suspicion of murder, tempting him with alcohol in the hopes he’ll talk more.
Sue returns to the museum to meet Scott after work, but Jarrod sends Scott away on an errand and has Igor lock Sue in the museum. While she’s snooping around, she decides to have a closer look at Joan of Arc, where she finds the model is wearing a wig and her hair is indeed blonde underneath! Jarrod appears in his wheelchair and stands up to pursue Sue! In the fight Sue smashes Jarrod’s wax mask, revealing the deformed man underneath!
Now obviously, when I was watching this movie, I knew it was Vincent Price under all that makeup, but even knowing that it’s very hard to tell it’s actually him. The mask is very impressive, and apparently lead to Vincent Price being banned from eating meals with everyone else during filming because it was so grotesque.
Back at the police station, Leon is so desperate for a drink he confesses to everything and says that Jarrod has been killing specific people because they look like the models from his old wax museum. “He’ll do the same with Sue Allen if he gets the chance,” according to Leon, so the police head off to save her.
Meanwhile, Scott has returned to the museum, and seeing the un-wigged Joan of Arc, along with Sue’s bag, finally realises something might be wrong. When he tries to access the basement, Igor appears, and they promptly start to beat the shit out of each other, culminating with Igor placing Scott in a functioning guillotine. The police saunter in like they haven’t a care in the world, but when they spot the impending beheading, the get their act together and save Scott.
They also burst into the basement where they save Sue from being coated in wax alive and send Jarrod hurtling into a pool of molten wax.
House of Wax (2005)
It’s 1974, and we’re in a woman’s kitchen as she makes a wax mask. A child is peacefully sitting in his highchair, eating cereal. A man enters with a less-than-calm child, who knocks over and smashes the wax mask before they are strapped into their highchair. Deeps scars on their wrists and ankles suggest this isn’t the first time this has happened, and after a bit of a ruckus, the woman slaps the child across the face.
Now it’s 2005, and we join a group of young friends on a food break from their road trip to watch a football game. You can tell it’s 2005 because of the excellent nu-metal soundtrack.
In our group we have Carly (Elisha Cuthbert), her twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki), her best friend Paige (Paris Hilton), Paige’s boyfriend Blake, and Nick’s friend Dalton. We get a lot of character set up in this introductory scene, presumably so we can just focus on the wax-based murders later on.
Carly has bagged an internship in New York, but Wade isn’t very supportive and doesn’t want to follow her there. Nick has been in jail for stealing a car and likes to refer to himself as the evil twin. His and Carly’s relationship is strained because he thinks she wasn’t supportive enough when police came for him after stealing the car. Paige may be pregnant but has yet to tell Blake because he’s more concerned with his car and his stereo than her. I think we’re all up to speed!
Blake finds a shortcut on the GPS, and the group head off in their two separate cars. However, the road turns out to be closed, and they decide to camp out tonight and wake up early tomorrow to finish the drive to the football ground. En route to the random field they decide to camp in, they pass a sign for Trudy’s wax museum. Apart from an awful smell that drifts in whenever the wind blows, their campsite seems like the perfect location, and they quickly break out the football and start blasting The Prodigy on their boombox. Yeah, this film may not have aged all that well.
Dalton is that creepy friend no one likes who won’t stop filming the group, with a particular focus on Carly.
Sometime later a pick-up truck arrives, and shines its full beams on the group, despite Wade and Blake asking them to leave. Bad boy Nick takes matters into his own hands and throws a bottle at the car, which not only smashes a headlight but also causes the truck to leave.
The group go to sleep in their tents, but somehow all manage to sleep until 2:30 pm the next day, leaving them in a rush to even make it to the football game. Wade discovers the fan belt on his car is broken meaning he can’t go anywhere, and Dalton can’t find his video camera anywhere. The girls meanwhile follow the bad smell from the night before, and Carly falls face first into a pit of roadkill with what looks like a human hand sticking out of the middle. The group arrive to rescue her at the same time as Lester arrives in his truck with more roadkill for the pile. He assures them that the hand is merely a mannequin, and offers to drive Wade to the local town of Ambrose so he can go to the garage and get a new fan belt. Carly goes with him and the rest of the group head to the football game, promising to return for their friends later.
In Lester’s hillbilly van Carly and Wade are a little untrusting, and when they arrive at a washed out section of road, they offer to just walk the rest of the way rather than spend longer than necessary in the creepy van. However, when they round the corner and find Ambrose actually does exist, they feel a little guilty for the pre-judgment. Apparently, Ambrose was a nice little town to visit before the interstate came along and then people stopped passing through it.
So the town exists, the gas station is there, and it even has fan belts, but they cannot find the attendant Bo.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group are stuck in a massive traffic jam and decide to turn around and head back for their friends as they’ve already missed the start of the football game. Paige calls Carly to fill her in, and they agree to pick her and Wade up where the road washes out, as they intend to set up camp where they camped the night before. Carly and Wade hear some noise coming from the church and so head there in the hopes of finding Bo. He is indeed there, but they manage to interrupt a funeral in the process. While Bo is less than welcoming, he eventually agrees to meet them later and sell them a fan belt, so the couple head up to the closed House of Wax for a look around.
The filmmakers were clearly raging they couldn’t get any real boobs in this movie, so next, we get an extended scene of someone crafting a wax woman (with a lot of boob rubbing) in an eerily lit basement. As Carly and Wade enter the wax museum, the echoes of them can be heard above the mysterious wax artist.
Not only are there a lot of wax figures inside the House of Wax, but the entire building is also made of wax, right down to the walls and the floor. They comment that while the wax figures are very realistic, they don’t appear to be of anyone famous, though Carly finds newspaper clippings detailing how famous Trudy and her House of Wax were in her hometown. She also stumbles across a lot of monstrous carvings with the name Vincent scraped into the bottom, and a very realistic looking wax dog which turns out to be real after all when it jumps at Wade and then scampers off. Finally (man there is a lot of set up in this scene) Carly spots two high chairs, which look very like the ones from the opening credits, with the names Vincent and Bo on them. After being spooked be a creepy face in the window, Carly demands they leave and head back to the gas station to wait on Bo.
As Blake wants to have sex with Paige at the campsite, he sends Dalton and Nick to pick up Carly and Nick in his car. We find out that Nick did not actually steal the car he was charged for taking, but instead was covering for Dalton, so he didn’t get a record. Aww, Nick is just a misunderstood nice guy after all.
Bo’s well-stocked fan belt selection might be impressive, but he doesn’t have the size that Wade needs. While Wade is ready to leave with a slightly larger size which might work, Bo insists he has the size they need up at his house, and Carly thinks this is just the best idea ever, as she’s still in overly-nice mode – trying to make up for interrupting his funeral earlier.
On the very short drive to the house, Bo fills the couple in on the House of Wax’s tragic backstory. Trudy, the creator of the wax museum, was married to a doctor who got struck off for doing weird medical stuff, and when Trudy died of a brain cyst, he shot himself as he couldn’t cope with the guilt. Her kids ended up in care, and the House of Wax was closed forever. Bo confirms that Vincent was one of her kids and a very talented wax artist himself.
Bo goes in to find the missing fan belt, and Wade decides to use the bathroom. Though rather than peeing and immediately leaving, he finds a room full of weird medical shit and immediately starts playing with it – horse fetus and all. When Carly exits the truck to look for Wade, she notices the smashed headlight and realises Bo must have been the guy from the campsite. She beeps the horn in an attempt to warn Wade, and the house is instantly plunged into darkness. While Wade stumbles around blind, a long-haired figure creeps out of a trapdoor and snips his Achilles tendon with a pair of scissors. I have major issues with ankle injuries in horror movies, which I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before. Once you notice them they pop up everywhere (see Pet Sematary (1989), Urban Legends (1998), and Hostel (2005) if you’re interested in some more particularly gruesome ones) and House of Wax has another one in store for us featuring Paris Hilton a little later on, so I have a bit of trouble watching this movie with my eyes totally open. After stabbing him and knocking him unconscious, Wade is dragged into the wax basement by the creepy figure.
Carly tries calling Paige to warn her about what has happened, but Bo interrupts her. However, when she locks herself in his truck (with her phone still connected), Bo smashes the windows to get to her, causing her to crash the truck and lose her phone in the process.
Meanwhile, things are going a little less well for Wade. Down in the basement, he has been sewn back together, stripped naked, and had his face waxed, before being coated in molten hot wax while he’s still alive. As he endures all this, he spots the dog from the wax museum lying in the corner, suggesting he may have been keeping watch for this creepy figure the whole time. I mean, Wade wasn’t the best boyfriend in the world, but I don’t think he deserved that. Or what’s still to come.
Carly decides to hide in the church as that was the only place she saw other alive people, but soon discovers that everyone is in fact wax. Not only wax, but real people coated in wax, as she finds out when she accidentally knocks one of their arms off. In the coffin, she finds the body of Trudy, and an order of service from Trudy’s funeral, and so decides to hide under the priest’s robes. However, Bo quickly finds her and locks her up in the garage’s basement.
Not only does he tie her to a hospital-style bed, but he also super glues her mouth shut. During the struggle, Carly notices the old bruises marking Bo’s wrists. Something I didn’t notice until this viewing was the fact that one wall of this room is covered in polaroids, suggesting Bo is not a particularly nice person and Carly is not the first woman he has had locked in his basement.
Just in time Nick and Dalton have arrived in town, and decide to split up to look for the couple. Nick heads to the garage, but Dalton, unfortunately, heads towards the House of Wax. Bo, hearing Nick’s arrival, tries to take him up to the house/stab him, while Carly tries to warn him by sticking her finger through a grate to attract his attention. When all that results in is Bo snipping her finger off with some pliers (honestly, this movie is gross), she pries apart her glued mouth and shouts for Nick. Nick manages to lock himself in the garage, forcing Bo to leave, and giving him the chance to rescue Carly.
Inside the House of Wax, Dalton finds Wade sitting at the piano sporting a sweet jacket. Thank goodness, Wade is safe. However, on closer inspection not only is Wade a wax person, but he’s also still alive as his eyes swivel about in his head. Dalton tries to free him from his waxy prison, but only succeeds in peeling half of Wade’s face of… while he’s still alive. During the face peeling, our creepy killer turns up, and after a brief chase decapitates Dalton with two rather large knives.
Carly and Nick see what they assume is Bo driving off in another truck, and decide to make a break for freedom. After discovering the whole town is rigged with electricity and a series of gears and pulleys to make it look as though nothing is wrong to an outsider, they raid the local gun store. After Bo had mentioned his brother Vincent in passing to Nick, Carly puts it together that he was the same Vincent from the museum, and chances are he’s the one making the scary wax models.
Paige and Blake are only just getting around to having sex, even though hours have passed since they were left alone, and despite Paige putting on her best sexy dance to early 2000’s R&B music routine, Blake is again distracted by the malfunctioning stereo and heads out of the tent to see what’s going on. She was also trying to use this pre-coital moment to tell him she might be pregnant, so maybe it’s for the best that he left the tent when he did. Blake finally listens to Carly’s voicemail from earlier and realises something bad is going down in Ambrose, but too late really as he’s seconds away from being brutally murdered at this point.
A figure reenters the tent, and Paige quickly realises it isn’t Blake, and makes a run for it, fleeing past Blake with a knife wedged in his neck as she goes. She comes across a warehouse that is apparently very close by but also not seen until this point, which in standard ‘middle of nowhere horror movie’ style is full of hundreds of cars, cell phones, and bags of belongings – suggesting that the killers in Ambrose have been at this for quite some time. As she was about to get it on before Vincent crept up on her, Paige gets to run for her life in lingerie, a flimsy dressing gown, and no shoes. As she runs over a metal floor, Vincent stabs her foot from underneath, slicing right through her heel and ankle. Honestly, if you hate ankle injuries just skip this movie.
After trying to hide in one of the abandoned cars and smashing part of Vincent’s mask with a pipe, Paige is eventually impaled through the head with a pipe and dies. Vincent really has an impressive arm if he’s able to not only aim a pipe through two car window and hit Paige square in the face, but also have the power to smash windows and penetrate the head of this possibly pregnant woman as in one throw.
In his usual calm manner, Nick votes to smash the window of the gun store to gain access, and so they are only able to grab a crossbow before Bo appears with a shotgun and chases them into the nearby cinema. Carly pretends to be one of the wax models in the cinema seats, but Bo soon figures out where she is and tries to shoot her. Nick uses the chance to spring on Bo and crossbow him a couple of times, seemingly to death. They kick him a few times to make sure, but don’t try a double tap approach, and instead opt to steal his gun and hide it behind the cinema counter. They decide the only course of action is to head back up to Bo’s house and try and find Carly’s cell phone so they can call for help. Oh, and they maybe want to see if Wade and Dalton are still alive. No big deal.
While they are raiding Bo’s house, Carly finds some newspaper clippings about a set of Siamese twins who were separated at birth by their father Dr Sinclair (Trudy’s husband). The twins were joined at the head, with Vincent’s face attached to the back of Bo’s head. This left him with a deformed face, hence his wax mask. At this point, both Bo and Vincent return to the house. Bo to remove the crossbow arrows from himself and Vincent to drop off the bodies of Paige and Blake, and fix his chipped wax face. We overhear Bo tells Vincent that he brings people to the town so Vincent can continue his mother’s dream of creating a wax town and that Vincent just does what he’s told to keep his brother happy. He may have been the deformed twin, but he was the peaceful kid from the beginning of the movie.
Nick and Carly make their escape into the tunnels below the house, but in a bid to find a light switch they mistakenly start flipping all the switches that control the entire town. With a very clear idea of where the twins are hiding, Vincent and Bo head into the tunnels after them. In Vincent’s wax studio Nick and Carly find Dalton’s wax-coated and decapitated body just as Vincent appears behind them. A fight ensues, and during it they accidentally turn up the heat on the wax heater, starting a fire in the basement.
Both sets of twins flee upstairs, with Carly finally finding the hopefully now dead Wade, as the floor starts to melt beneath them. After Bo stabs Nick in the leg, leaving him less of a threat, Carly beats the shit out of Bo’s face with a baseball bat. I bet he really regrets snipping her finger off now.
Vincent, understandably pissed that Carly has murdered his brother, chases her upstairs, which due to the heat have turned into the stairs from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Upstairs, Carly barricades herself in a bedroom using a wax figure of a set of Siamese twins, which Vincent perfectly slices through when he makes his way into the room. Say what you want about this movie, but the visual of those little wax babies getting their heads separated is pretty beautiful.
Carly tries to talk Vincent into not murdering her, pointing out that he was the good twin and Bo was the evil one. This isn’t what his mother would have wanted. But at this point, he’s pretty must past saving and lunges at her. During the fight Carly smashes Vincent’s wax face completely, so we get to see the full extent of his facial deformity.
Nick arrives to try and help Carly, and she rips the knife out of Nick’s leg and stabs Vincent with it, sending him falling through a hole in the floor where he lands in perfect siamese twin placement on top of Bo. Now finally back together the way they were born, the two brothers sink into the floor and the boiling wax that waits below. It wasn’t till I watched the movie this time around that I realised the same actor (Brian Van Holt) must have played Bo and Vincent in the scenes where you can see Vincent’s real face, as obviously, they are twins! Though there aren’t a lot of shots of him without the mask, so I don’t blame myself too much for missing it.
It’s lucky for Nick and Carly that Trudy decided to make the whole fucking museum out of wax because they can claw their way through the melting walls before the whole thing falls on them. As the sun rises, we see the emergency crews on the scene, putting out the fire and helping Nick and Carly. The police mention this town isn’t even on the map anymore and had it not been for the massive amounts of smoke from the fire, they probably would never have found them.
As our twins, freshly bonded over the death of their friends, make their way out of town we hear a police officer comment that Trudy didn’t have two sons… she had three! We see Lester, the helpful weirdo from the roadkill truck sitting with Vincent’s dog at the side of the road, smiling at the twins. Why can horror movies never just have happy endings? There always has to be some weird twist that hints at sequel potential for no reason. I feel they added this in because we’d all pretty much forgotten about Lester by this point, but of course, he had to be in on it, because he acts as though the town of Ambrose is still alive and kicking when he drops Wade and Carly off.
Lester does not seem in the least bit concerned that he is the only other real person hanging out in this town, and if the police saw him, they might twig that he has something to do with the whole thing. But hey, at least the dog didn’t burn to death!
And just to remind you this movie came out in 2005, we’re treated to Helena by My Chemical Romance over the credits. Perfect.
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) vs House of Wax (1953) vs House of Wax (2005) – The Final Verdict
I will say one thing about all three of these movies – they are all aware of how scary a wax figure looks when it’s being melted by fire. The bulging eyeballs and huge teeth that are left behind as the rest of the face melts away is more than a little unsettling, and there are a lot of scenes in all of the films of these wax figures meeting their demise.
House of Wax (1953) is pretty much a direct remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum, and I think it does a really good job of improving on a story that was a little bit complicated, which I didn’t realise until I tried to write out the plot. It cuts out the reporter sideline, the not guilty boyfriend, and the whole bootlegging storyline, and gives us a more slimmed-down, horror-based tale, fully focussing on our final girl Sue. It feels cleaner and easier to follow, with Jarrod’s character taking on a more stalking killer-type role as he actively pursues Sue on more than one occasion before he finally traps her in the museum. While Florence was a great character, she was never in any real direct danger herself, and so it felt strange placing her in the main character role of Mystery of the Wax Museum. She also had no real emotional storyline, as the Joan of Arc character was just someone she was following for a story, and not someone she actually cared for.
With Sue we follow her through the trauma of seeing her best friend murdered, having the killer chase her through the city and stalk her in her bedroom, along with the reveal that Joan of Arc is indeed her pal Cathy. It’s much easier to relate to her as our final girl.
House of Wax (2005) is nothing like either of the earlier films, with the only connection being most of the action takes place in a wax museum that’s also full of dead bodies. The name Vincent is obviously a nod to Vincent Price, but really that’s where the ties end. Yes, Vincent also rocks a wax mask to hide his deformed face, but it’s not to hide his identity like it is in the older movies. It’s just to make him slightly more creepy looking.
Perhaps they felt that there was no point in making a carbon copy of the earlier movies when there would be very little they could add to the 1953 movie, and so they just decided to take the basic concepts and give it a more Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style setting.
While it may not follow the style of its predecessors, House of Wax (2005) does feel the scariest to me. The fact that characters like Wade are turned into wax models when they are still alive, and then get to live in the wax museum until they eventually die adds a new torturous level to the thought of getting dipped in wax alive. There’s also the fact the entire town is rigged, from the woman on a pulley opening her curtains every 30 seconds, to the fucking puppies in the pet shop with their wagging tails! Did you kill puppies, Bo? Not cool! To a passerby, Bo and Vincent want this town to look normal and to give no sense that anything is wrong until you’re getting your ankle sliced with a pair of scissors.
And the abandoned warehouse shows just how many times this has worked, and how many people they have killed and covered up over the years with the police being none the wiser.
Overall, I wasn’t particularly keen on Mystery of the Wax Museum, and I think the 1953 remake did a great job of giving it a better plot, a scarier monster, and more interesting characters. While it’s hard to compare the 2005 version as it’s so starkly different, it’s definitely the type of horror I prefer, and I find the effort Vincent and Bo go to in order to create this wax hellhole far more scarier than someone who’s obsessed with Marie Antoinette.
Winner: House of Wax (2005)
Tourist Trap (1979)
Let me just start by saying that Tourist Trap (1979) is a weird fucking movie, and I feel that considering the music they chose to use for the intro, the creators were well aware of what an oddball creation this film is.
We open on Woody pushing a tyre down a deserted road as his girlfriend Eileen is waiting at their broken down car. The rest of their friends Molly, Becky, and Jerry are travelling with the couple, and show up in their sweet open-top jeep to rescue Eileen and head off in search of Woody.
Woody has found a standard, creepy-looking gas station and heads inside in hopes of getting a new tyre. He hears a noise like a woman crying and follows it into a back room, where he is promptly locked inside. This has to be one of the most bananas openings to a movie ever, where the mannequins that are scattered all over the room begin to laugh and scream at Woody. As he tries to open the door through a hole in it, something unseen grabs him from the other side, and he is therefore held in place when a cupboard starts firing sharp objects at home. He is finally dispatched off with a pipe to the ribs, and as his blood pours out the pipe and onto the floor, we are treated to one of the greatest silent death faces in history. Really, this death scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie perfectly.
On their hunt for Woody, the other car passes a sign for Slausen’s Lost Oasis and thinking Woody may have headed there for help when they find his discarded tyre at the side of the road they decide to follow his trail.
When their car mysteriously dies, Jerry tries his best to fix it, while the women head off for a skinny dip in the nearby swimming hole. As they are swimming, Mr Slausen (Chuck Connors) appears from the river banks with a cowboy hat and a shotgun, being just a tad creepy. He mentions that his museum used to be very popular before they opened that damn highway, but now he’s had to close to the public.
Despite warning the girls to leave the area before it gets dark, he offers to take them back to his house so Jerry can use his tools to fix the car. He manages to get it into the conversation that his wife is dead, has another dig at the highway, and repeats Molly’s name about 12 times once he learns it. I feel like ‘dead wife’, ‘highway’, and ‘Molly’ are 90% of this character’s script.
Once the group arrives at his museum, they see it’s a wax museum depicting famous scenes from history. Mr Slausen’s brother is apparently the artist, though he’s moved to the city to make it big as a wax artist, which is definitely a thing that happens regularly in real life. The group spots a house across from the museum, and when they ask who lives there, Mr Slausen replies, “Nobody really. Just Davey.” Honestly guys, you need to get out of here, this guy is grade A weird. Jerry and Mr Slausen head off to fix the car, and the girls get told to told to stay inside.
Eileen decides she wants to head to Davey’s house to see if he has a phone they can use. While inside she hears someone whispering her name and comes across a room full of mannequins. She doesn’t seem bothered by this, and pops on a nice neck scarf she finds in the room. Behind her, a strange masked figure appears, with long hair and a fisherman’s hat, and apparently telekinetically strangles her with the scarf.
Back at the museum, Molly has discovered a switch which illuminates a strange shrine to a beautiful wax woman, complete with creepy music. Both girls comment the skin feels like real flesh and looks very realistic. Mr Slausen returns and reveals it is a shrine to his dead wife. His wife wanted to open a beautiful hotel, but she died of cancer before they got the chance to open one, and then that damn highway came along!
Mr Slausen finally clocks that Eileen has gone missing and goes looking for her at Davey’s house. After shouting for Davey and finding no-one at home, he finds a wax version of Eileen sitting upstairs and seems quite distressed, though perhaps not surprised at Davey’s actions. He returns to tell the other women he can’t find her and heads out into the woods to pretend to look for her, telling Becky and Molly to stay where they are. Becky isn’t exactly trusting and convinces Molly to leave with her and head to Davey’s house. She clambers through a window and leaves Molly alone in the woods.
The sound of Eileen’s laughter lures Becky inside, where she is attacked by a bunch of high-pitched screaming wax women, who fall on her and pin her to the floor. Becky is carried to the basement by the wax Leatherface-type person, where we find Jerry already tied up and another woman (Tina) strapped to the table. In fact, the killer has quite a lot in common with Leatherface, as he seems to like wearing women’s faces as masks and long haired wigs when he’s on his murderous rampages.
Jerry confirms that old waxy is none other than Mr Slausen’s crazy brother, and he captured the other girl when she stopped at the creepy gas station. Slausen’s brother returns in his party gear (top hat included), and pours plaster over Tina’s face, telling her that her heart will explode with fear before she gets the chance to suffocate, which it appears to do as she promptly dies.
Slausen’s brother rants about Mr Slausen, saying he makes him wear these masks, and he won’t let him use his special powers. He also tells us how he runs the decoy gas station to lure people in as no one travels far enough to find the museum these days. Probably because of that damn highway.
Molly, now the only person not in the killer’s clutches, is wandering through the dark woods looking for her friends. She hears someone whispering her name and Slausen’s brother appears with a screaming mannequin head, which he throws at her as it screams her name. It’s one of those things that I’m sure would be scary if it happened to you, but is pretty ridiculous from an outsider’s point of view.
Luckily Mr Slausen shows up in his van and rescues her. When she describes the strange man in the mask that was chasing her, Mr Slausen admits that it was his brother and he’s been trying to protect him. He suggests they phone the police, but he would like to lure him to the museum by turning the radio on so the police don’t have to hunt him down. He gives Molly the shotgun for protection and heads inside.
When Slausen’s brother shows up, she tries to shoot him, but he taunts her with the fact the gun is full of blanks. Instead, she smashes him in the face with the gun (well done love), shattering his wax face and revealing it is, in fact, Mr Slausen underneath! This is our third wax face reveal of this article (though our fourth wax face smash overall as Vincent’s mask got smashed, but we already knew it was him underneath), but I think this one is my favourite.
Molly runs off into the woods and decides to quietly sink into the nearby pool of water in the hopes of hiding from Mr Slausen. However, when she’s halfway under the water, Mr Slausen rises out of the water behind her (logistics start to go out the window at this point in the movie, I’m not going to lie) and captures her, before taking her into the house and tying her to a bed. He also brings some soup to wax Eileen, which he has to put on his wax face in order to make her move and eat it. I told you we were getting weird now.
Jerry and Becky are still tied up in the basement, but manage to escape, only to find the house full of mannequins, and Mr Slausen playing in the living room with some dolls. They both manage to escape, though Mr Slausen is on their tail. Non-wax face Mr Slausen shows up to seemingly save Becky, where he then takes her back to the wax museum and murders her by making a wax figure through a knife into the back of her head.
Mr Slausen transfers Molly to a mattress in his attic, which is always where good things happen, as many wax people serenade them. He reveals his real brother and his wife were having an affair, so he had to kill them. He then pops a mask of his wife’s face on Molly and kisses her.
Luckily Jerry arrives to save the day, and he’s brought an axe! Go Jerry! Molly is done with all this shit and tells Jerry to kill Mr Slausen, but Mr Slausen just laughs in his face and rips Jerry’s arm off because guess what? He’s wax! Now, I have a lot of questions about the creation of the wax people in this movie. We see him begin to turn Tina into a wax person, yet Eileen is full-on waxed almost immediately. Also, all the other wax people are quite clearly wax, and yet somehow Jerry is a fully functional wax person and yet is not aware of it. In fact, he’s not even a wax person, he’s clearly a mannequin, as his arm detaches as though it’s just clicked into place. Maybe just don’t think about it too much.
With everything that has happened to her, Molly has slowly gone a bit mad, and when Mr Slausen starts to dance with a figure who transforms into a real woman as the dance continues, she finally loses it and axes him in the neck.
With Mr Slausen finally dead and all her friends gone, Molly makes her escape in possibly one of my favourite movie endings ever. We cut to Molly driving down the road in the open-top jeep, with all the wax figures of her friends propped up in the seats like demented Barbie dolls, as Molly manically smiles to herself. And freeze frame!
Tourist Trap (1979) vs House of Wax (2005) – The Final Verdict
So why are we even talking about Tourist Trap in this House of Wax-based article? Because whether they meant it or not, I think House of Wax (2005) is a much closer remake of Tourist Trap than it is of the two older wax museum movies.
Here’s all the things the two movies have in common: a gas station/garage which lures travelling teens in so they can be murdered, people are murdered and then turned into wax models (and are occasionally still alive when this happens), a team of brothers doing the murdering (even if it does turn out that Mr Slausen is playing both himself and his brother), a death involving a pipe, a highway that’s been built meaning people don’t come round these parts no more, a creepy but very obvious wax mask involved, and they’re both trying to keep the memory of a dead woman alive with their creepy museums which include a shrine to aforementioned woman’s body. Apart from the whole unexplained telekinesis element of Tourist Trap, they are very similar movies.
I wonder if it happened by accident, or if the filmmakers thought the House of Wax franchise was a better thing to attach themselves to, as perhaps not as many people have heard of Tourist Trap.
For being flat-out creepy House of Wax is probably my favourite, but Tourist Trap is a fucking experience. I watched it for the first time in a packed cinema as part of an all-night horror marathon, and let me tell you, that is the way to watch this movie. Grab some horror-loving pals and have a laugh! Don’t get me wrong, it is scary, but it is also bananas. There’s screaming mannequins, Mr Salusen throwing a laughing head at Molly as she runs, people who don’t know they’re wax, random telekinetic powers, mannequins eating soup, and that perfect freeze frame ending. What more could you ask for?