Based on a 1924 German film, Waxwork is the kind of baffling video rental film that I can’t get enough of. Written and directed by Anthony Hickox (Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth), it’s all about a wax museum that’s filled with the of course they’re really alive figures of the eighteen (6+6+6) most evil beings to ever be*, which would be the Marquis de Sade, a werewolf, Count Dracula along with his brides and son, a golem, an axe murderer, an alien, a sort of Audrey 3 talking venus flytrap, the Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy, zombies, Frankenstein’s monster, Jack the Ripper, The Invisible Man, a voodoo priest, a witch, a snakeman, Rosemary’s Baby himself and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
As an economical video renting teen, this movie always seemed like a good deal, because you got everything you wanted out of multiple rentals all for the same price.
If I can give you any advice, if David Warner invites you to his wax museum — or if a silver masked man gives you free passes for a matinee — don’t go. Because he has no good intentions.
The kids in this movie ignore this advice and soon, we have Mark Loftmore (Zach Galligan, Gremlins), China Webster (Michelle Johnson, Beaks: The Movie), Sarah Brightman (Deborah Foreman, Valley Girl, April Fools Day), Gemma (Clare Carey, Zombie High), James (Eric Brown, Buzz from Mama’s Family) and Tony (Dana Ashbrook, Bobby Briggs from Twin Peaks) being menaced by all manner of beasts.
As they walk through the wax museum, each installation transforms into a window into another dimension filled with danger. Tony is attacked by a werewolf (John Rhys-Davies) and ultimately killed by a hunter before the werewolf curse takes hold of him. China is turned into a bloodsucker by Dracula (Miles O’Keeffe, Ator himself!). Only Mark and Sarah survive.
A police detective starts investigating the wax museum but he’s soon killed by mummies, just as Sarah pretty much tells Mark that she likes him but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s really a mixed message. But still, better than being killed by undead Egyptians.
Mark’s grandfather, as it turns out, was killed by Warner’s character, but he has the support of the town’s elders, led by Sir Wilfred (Patrick Macnee). They must set the wax museum ablaze if they want to save reality, which means Sarah getting tied up by the Marquis de Sade and whipped, another example of the phenomena where I explain that this scene was for foreign markets to my head shaking wife.
If it hasn’t come through, I love that the characters are watching Dawn of the Dead, which gets homaged in the sequel. As for Mark’s house, it’s the same home from Ben, Willard, Elvira Mistress of the Dark and Witchboard.
You have to love a movie with end credits that say “Dedicated to Hammer, Argento, Romero, Dante, Landis, Spielberg, Wells, Carpenter, Mom and Dad, and many more…”
*The original script had the children from Village of the Damned, Jason Vorhees and The Thing in the wax museum. If this was made in Italy, the legal usage of those characters would not matter at all to the filmmakers. For what it’s worth, Jason sort of shows up, as Kane Hodder played Frankenstein’s monster.