Wealthy slacker college student Mark, his new girlfriend Sarah, and their friends are invited to a special showing at a mysterious wax museum which displays 18 of the most evil men of all time. After his ex-girlfriend and another friend disapear, Mark becomes suspicous. What he doesn't know is that they have been made a part of the exhibit, by first living out the scene and then being murdered in it.
/ West Germany
Directed by: Anthony Hickox
. Starring: Zach Galligan
, Jennifer Bassey
, Joe Baker
, Deborah Foreman
, Michelle Johnson
, David Warner
, Eric Brown
, Clare Carey
, Buckley Norris
, Dana Ashbrook
, Micah Grant
, Mihaly 'Michu' Meszaros
, Jack David Walker
. Music by: Roger Bellon
Waxwork is one of the most frustrating offerings you're likely to come across if you explore the '80s splatter movie canon. On one hand, the film boasts a very cool concept, several splendid in-jokes for horror fans, and some delightfully grisly gore effects that every genre devotee will relish with fiendish glee. However, to enjoy those fantastic elements, you also have to contend with some truly wretched acting, atrocious dialogue that makes the fact that someone was actually paid to write this movie seem like a mortal sin, and a climax that spirals into absolute nonsense. One's enjoyment of the film as a whole will depend on how enthused you are by the former and how forgiving you are of the latter. However, if you don't mind seeing a prime slice of classic B-movie horror disintegrate before your very eyes, Waxwork offers enough moments of genius to merit a viewing, even if it doesn't earn a glowing review.
Perhaps best described as a loving tribute to the genre, the film takes a largely anthological approach, delving into portions of several legendary horror films throughout the course of its padded running time. The initially simple plot involves a group of wholly obnoxious and blatantly stereotypical teen archetypes attending a shady midnight tour at a wax museum that specializes exclusively in macabre exhibits. One by one, our attendees cross the velvet ropes and step into the displays, at which point they become immersed in the world portrayed by the wax figures.
Each exhibit represents an legendary icon of horror's past, and, though the segments refrain from crediting their direct sources, throughout the course of the film we visit homages to the werewolf, vampire, mummy, and zombie genres. The vampire installment is overwhelmingly the strongest, presenting a witty and splatter-fueled twist on the classic Dracula formula, and this deliciously twisted subplot would have been perfectly suited for an episode of Tales From The Crypt. In fact, the segment is pretty much worth the entire movie by itself, and the over-the-top gore on display presents a thrilling and pretty much amazing bit of parody.
The winks to horror enthusiasts are smart and subtle, such as the black-and-white staging of the obviously Night Of The Living Dead-influenced zombie episode and the use of music from Boris Karloff's original Mummy film in the segment that echoes that classic. If Waxwork lived up to the promise implied by its sharpest moments, we would probably be dealing with a classic here. However, at some point the film-makers decide that they want a more cohesive plot, and that is precisely the decision that makes the film veer way off track.
The absurd purpose attributed to the lethal museum is downright stupid, and once we find out that the malevolent curator is actually instigating a plot to bring his sculptures "back to life", the film instantly stops being clever. You see, the titular waxwork is actually a gallery of infamous villains whom the curator wants to resurrect and unleash upon the world. Since the horror movie-referencing displays are placed alongside real-world historical figures like the Marquis de Sade and Jack The Ripper, the concussed logic of the master-plan not only suggests that there was a zombie outbreak at some point in history, but that the events portrayed in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers actually occurred as well.
The denouement, where the wax sculptures do indeed come to life, erupts into a battle between the forces of evil and a band of elderly defenders (please don't ask), and any lingering pretensions we have of Waxwork living up to its nifty premise come to a screeching halt along with the film. And when a decidedly sissified Maquis de Sade becomes one of the most prominent villains, the highlights in the first half of the movie fade into a distant memory. On that front, the de Sade segment is an awkwardly misogynistic bit that completely derails the mirthful tone the movie maintains up until that point, and once the Marquis makes his entrance the film ceases being fun and starts becoming tedious.
Since the thin budget clearly didn't allow the film-makers to build a gallery of wax sculptures, the actors are called upon to, literally, stand in. This turns into a problem when not a single member of the cast can hold still even for a moment, and any time we see the "wax" figures on the screen, they end up invariably flinching before the shot is through.
Though it eventually devolves into a ludicrous mess, Waxwork has enough hints of genuine inspiration to make it a memorable affair. However, considering the promise it shows during its better moments, the end result is a certifiable disappointment. To quote the dwarven doorman who admits the characters into the world of Waxwork, "we verr achspuckting more.".
Review by happyendingrocks from the Internet Movie Database.