Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

House of Wax


If you watch any TV at all, you will be familiar with Geico. Over the last decade or so they have had seven or eight different ad campaigns, starting with Ned the Banker (“Lost another loan to Geico!”), and going through many more, each one, incredibly, more stupid than the last. The worst of them all is that fucking gecko with the accent (Cockney? Aussie? Why?), the reptile I would most like to stomp to green guts. (Bear with me, I’ll get to this movie eventually, though it may take a while.)

But once, just once, they ran one that made me laugh:

A group of terrified teenagers runs out of a spooky woods and sees a spooky house with a spooky garage door standing open.
“Let’s hide in the attic!” one of them shouts.
“No, let’s go into the basement!”
“No, let’s get into that car and drive away,” says one girl. And sure enough, there’s a car sitting there, headlights on, motor running.
“Are you crazy?” says another. “Look, let’s go hide in the garage!” And they all run into the garage and hide behind fifty of so hanging chainsaws, failing to notice the Leatherface sort of guy standing behind them in bloodstained clothes, and even he is shaking his head at their stupidity.
The announcer comes on and says “In horror movies you make bad choices. It’s just what you do.”

I laughed. What it has to do with saving 15% or more on car insurance, I have no idea, but I laughed. (BTW: They can’t, I checked. In fact, my insurance company saves me almost 15% over Geico’s best offer.)

It’s so true, isn’t it? In virtually every horror movie there’s lines like this: “First of all, let’s split up. You follow that trail of blood spatters and I’ll walk backwards into every room in the house. Watch out for harmless cats springing out at you, and whatever you do, don’t turn on the lights!

So, we come to House of Wax. (I told you we would!) You are a girl in 1900 in New York. Your roommate has been murdered by a man with a horribly disfigured face, and you suspect that her body is hidden behind the wax façade of Joan of Arc in a creepy wax museum. Twice a man with a hideously disfigured face has chased you and tried to kill you. So what do you do? You accept an invitation to go to the museum at midnight, alone, to model for a wax figure. You climb up on a ladder and find that, yes, your roommate really is under the wax … and look down to see that Vincent Price, in his wheelchair, has discovered you. Not only that, but he doesn’t need the wheelchair, and he is the man with the hideously disfigured face, but it has been concealed behind a remarkably mobile and expressive wax face! Who could possibly have guess that?

Well, everyone in the audience, about half an hour ago, of course. Still, this isn’t all that bad a movie. The production values are high, the color is terrific, and Vincent Price restrains himself as much as such a ham actor is capable of doing. It was one of the first color 3D movies (experts differ on which was first). I never saw it in 3D, but it does manage to restrain itself from the worst excesses of shoving stuff in your face, except for one scene of a busker who is a paddleball whiz, who annoyingly thrusts his balls right into your face … so to speak. Maybe the restraint was because of the director, André de Toth. In a wonderful irony, he had only one eye. 3D didn’t mean shit to him, since he couldn’t see it.