What’s it About: When a movie starts off with a guy’s head getting pushed into a fireplace, you know things are off to a good start. And when the second scene involves the immortal Zach Galligan from Gremlins, you know you’re in for a TREAT! Zach plays Mark, a rich kid with an overbearing mother who thinks they shouldn’t mingle with regulars. I’m pretty sure they live in the same house from another horror movie, but I can’t quite place it. If you know, let us know! Anyway, Two girls, China and Sarah, walk by a foreboding house with a big sign on the front that reads “Waxwork,” but instead of saying, “What the hell is a waxwork?” they comment on how it’s a strange location for a waxwork. Is it? Maybe it’s the perfect place for a waxwork. Who knows anything about the ideal real estate for a waxwork? Anyway, these girls go to the same college as Mark, where the student body is made up entirely of people who look like what college kids today would dress like if they were going to a Halloween party dressed as douchebag preppies from the ‘80s. One of the girls tells her other friends that they’ve been invited to a waxwork party that night, and instead of anyone asking, “What the hell are you talking about?” they all agree to go. When they get there, one of the guys says, “Strange place for a waxwork.” I give up. Apparently every college kid in this town majors in waxwork geography. And it also seems like they minor in film noir dialogue.
Two of the six kids get spooked and split, then a Munchkin opens the door! Awesome. Mark, China, Sarah, and another guy named Tony go inside the main showroom of the waxwork and have a look around, and don’t find it odd that everything is clearly just a live person holding a pose, and they don’t look like wax at all. I guess that was much cheaper than getting a bunch of wax figures for the movie. All of the displays are from various horror movies and novels, including Frankenstein, an axe murderer, Jack the Ripper, a voodoo dude, you get the drill.
Tony steps into a werewolf display and is transported to the woods wearing different clothes, and now he has long hair, prompting him to wonder, “Who put the acid in my drink again?” But he gave up drinking… hologram? Hypnotism? NO! WAXWORK BLACK MAGICK! He walks to a creepy house and meets Sallah from Indiana Jones, who seems to be turning into a werewolf. He bites Tony on the arm as two werewolf hunters come in. But their plans take a turn when the werewolf rips one of them in half like a piece of paper. Unfortunately for Tony, getting bitten by a werewolf means you also turn into a werewolf, which in turn means you get shot in the gut by werewolf hunters. But luckily, he gets to be part of the exhibit!
Next, China gets hot for a wax figure of a vampire. Wouldn’t being sexually attracted to a mannequin be some kind of mental disorder? I’m looking at you, Andrew McCarthy. So China sits down to dinner with a bunch of vampires where they eat blood and what seems like human flesh, and she doesn’t really seem to mind. The guy playing the head vampire in this scene seems like he’s had all the blood in his body replaced some kind of sludge that makes you a terrible actor. China also thinks she’s having a dream, denying the true power of the waxwork! The son of the head vampire attacks her in her room, then she runs into the basement, where her dream fiance is laying on a slab with the meat from the lower part of his left leg missing. So I guess she ate calf! Sonny vampire finds them, so she puts two knives together in a cross and touches his head to make it explode. This scene is pretty excellent. More she-vampires attack, but she dispatches of them, including impaling one a rack of champagne bottles. But that oh-so-charming head vampire seduces her, and chomps on her neck, making her part of the exhibit. Great waxwork party so far.
Mark and Sarah think this party is beat and take off after the Munchkin tells them that Tony and China already left. China’s douche boyfriend calls China’s roommate and she tells him she’s at a waxwork party, which he DOES NOT QUESTION. So he instantly turns up at the waxwork, and gets sucked into the Phantom of the Opera exhibit.
In a weird second act, instead of staying at the waxwork, we go to the next day and everyone’s wondering where China and Tony have gone, and Mark goes to the cops. If the point of the film is to have everyone thrust into these different horror movie scenes, I’m not sure why this part is necessary. So Mark brings a cop to the waxwork to show him the shenanigans, but of course the waxwork owner claims ignorance. So the cop thinks Mark is full of horsestuff. For some reason, Mark fakes an illness and busts Sarah out of school to help him. Again, this all seems pretty unnecessary, let’s just get back to the waxwork part already.
The cop goes back on his own, feeling that something ain’t kosher. He goes into the vampire scene, the waxy one, and cuts off a big chunk of China’s face, either for forensics or for weird sexual perversion.
Fortunately for Mark, his grandfather left a bunch of crap in the attic pertaining to the waxwork owner, coincidentally enough. Mark recognized the waxwork owner from his grandfather’s newspaper, which means he spends a lot of time in the attic reading old newspapers?? OK then.
Back at the waxwork, the cop finds himself sucked into the mummy exhibit. Just when you think, “Oh great. Mummy. Boring.” the mummy steps on a guy’s head, jellyfying it, then runs a spear through an old man. The mummy throws the cop and a woman into a sarcophagus with another mummy, sealing their fate!
Then we’re back to talking about the waxwork instead of seeing the scenes within it like we want to. Turns out the waxwork owner killed Mark’s grandfather (the head in the fireplace from the beginning). Mark’s great uncle goes into blah, blah, blah, black magick, blah, killing displays, blah, 18 evil people, blah, wax figures need to kill to become real, blah, end of the world, blah, burn waxwork, blah. Didn’t really need to be explained at all, thank you.
So Mark and Sarah need to go back to the waxwork and burn each display individually, but Sarah gets sucked into the Marquis de Sade exhibit because she’s a virgin nerd. But she totally digs it, which is nice. Meanwhile, Mark gets sucked into a black and white zombie scene, but he realizes that none of this is real, and if he doesn’t believe in it, it doesn’t exist, making him a waxwork atheist. He escapes from the zombie scene, is chased across the waxwork floor by the dwarf and a big goon, and dives into the Marquis de Sade scene. All this time, Sarah has been getting flogged by Marquis de Sade, and she just can’t get enough, that hot, hot sicko. Even when Mark comes in to rescue her, she doesn’t want to leave. Come on, you can’t find one guy to whip you in college? I find that hard to believe. That was all we did in college.
Anyway, Mark proves that to Sarah that it’s not real, and they go back to the waxwork. They get captured by the waxwork owner and his goons, then their two dink friends from earlier show up, completing the ritual or whatever and bringing all the waxwork figures to life. Supposedly the next step is for the world to be taken over, but it’s not clear how. Fortunately, Mark’s great uncle and friends show up to do battle with the waxies. All these old men trounce the wax figures pretty handily, making it seem even more unlikely that they were going to take over the world somehow. Mark has a sword fight with Marquis de Sade, but not in the way it sounds—a literal sword fight. The waxwork owner is shot and falls into his own wax, and the waxwork burns to the ground. Fortunately, all the other buildings in the neighborhood are safe, because it was in a convenient location.
Is it Actually Scary: Not at all, it’s pure camp with a side of gore.
Gore Level: Lots of great stuff, in particular the vampire scene with the eaten leg and the head explosion, and a few other dismemberments and decapitations.
Dumbest Moments: Gotta be Mark recognizing the waxwork owner because of a decades-old newspaper his grandfather left in the attic, which he would have no reason at all to have seen previously.
Best Part: Sarah feeds the dwarf to Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.
Nudity: None, not even in the Marquis de Sade scene, strangely enough.
Overall: The dwarf in this movie played ALF! Now that I have that out of the way, I was pleasantly surprised how much fun Waxwork is. Unfortunately it gets dragged down with totally needless explanations of the how the waxwork works. The plot is very very loose, but it’s just to tie the exhibit scenes together. Honestly you could watch a version of this with just those scenes and not really miss anything. But again, it’s fun and worth your time, as long as you realize it’s not real.Score: 7 (out of 10)