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Waxwork Double Feature

3rd Oct 04

Guys I can't help it, I just can't, I've just got to deal with it. There's no point denying it anymore, I have to admit the truth. I'm living in an 80's timewarp. I mean I ask you, why else would I dig up a Waxwork double feature for our latest zombie club presentation?

Tonight's Zombie Club is presented by Jim in association with Big Earl's Battle Wheel Chair Emporium.

Waxwork Waxwork II: Lost in Time 


Waxwork (1988)

Plot
David Warner turns a bunch of 80s teenagers into his latest wax exhibits. Madame Toussards eat your heart out.

Jim
At least Waxwork is a lot easier to defend than it's sequel. The plot goes like this. Zach Galligan (with apparently nothing to do between the Gremlins movies) has just been dumped by the school überslut, who I swear is the blonde one from Baywatch that also jumps topless out of a cake in Under Siege. I couldn't remember her name, but Rawshark knew straight away (tee hee). Anyway, Zach's looking to get back with her somehow, so when a very Willy Wonka like David Warner invites them and their friends to a private midnight tour of his macabre waxwork, he's well into it.

Before you know it, everything turns into a big cheese-ball pantomine. The kids turn up at Warner's waxwork and one by one get picked off by playing out the classic horror scenario of each display (wolfman, gothic vampire, marquis de sade, etc) before Zach escapes with the newly promoted heroine - i.e. the only girl not dead, not the baywatch babe. Then there's some mumbo jumbo about a classic contest between good and evil explained to us by Patrick McNee of The Avengers fame having a full-on Donald Pleasance moment, before we're lead on to the suitably bonkers big fight finale.

Waxwork is a lot of fun, has a host of amazing cameos and some wholesome grue, but it falls way short of its obvious potential. For all its inventiveness, it makes no real effort to scare - a trait common to many a late 80's horror - and suffers slightly as a result. If you're a bigger fan of the grittier 70's flicks then this might not be your cup of tea, which I can understand. But its certainly not a flick without its moments, the most notable being the ridiculously over the top ending (check out McNee's battle wheelchair) and the sweet homage to Night of the Living Dead, filmed in glorious black & white.

Like I said before, you either love the 80's or you don't. Be warned.

"Why not take a closer look..."

Rawshark
It's Erika Eleniak I think you're thinking of Jim (hey, I can't help remembering the Baywatch babes!), and no, she's not in Waxwork. Still, this film does have David Warner reprising his role of Dr Necessiter from The Man With 2 Brains (eat'em baby), John Rhys-Davies practising for Gimli by playing a werewolf, a grown-up Zach Galligan and as Jim points out, the old Avenger himself hamming it up a treat as a wheelchair-bound goodie/baddie.

Waxwork starts off in great b-movie stylings, almost like a spoof teen-college movie, before quickly jumping into horror-anthology-land with a cool leap straight into a fun werewolf sequence that features a grisly head-tearing sequence. And when that's followed by a great vampire sequence that ends in great 'blood splash on white room' gore, we've almost forgotten it started off as a comedy.

Unfortunately the cool-as-cucumbers concept then gets chucked away with a boring investigation sequence, a yaddah mummy affair, and some strangely exciting (but boring) whipping scenes. Zach saves the day, proves de Sade doesn't exist, all the monsters wake up, there's a big fight, someone shoots someone, and it all ends wrong for Willy Wonka. Still, at least the zombie hand escapes, so I guess this film at least deserves some small round of applause.

"They made a movie about the Phantom of the Opera? They'll make a movie about anything these days."

Zomblee
Ok, you know the basic plot by now. Waxwork has a premise that makes any fan of classic horror want to see it. Think ‘Classic Horror’s Greatest Hits’ and you’re in the right ballpark. The real shame, as Jim points out, is that inherent quality of so many 80’s horror movies – they just don’t make an effort to scare. However, the presence of the always excellent David Warner as a horror version of Willy Wonka made this a must-see for me. Camping it up more than ever, he shines as the owner of the ‘Waxwork’ museum, always encouraging the young scamps to have a closer look at the exhibits until BAM – and they get sucked into the classic-horror-scenario-dimension, be it Wolfman, Marquis De Sade, or whatever.

Those of you who, like me, have a great fondness for Twin Peaks will appreciate the presence of Dana Ashbrook (the brattish Bobby Briggs from Twin Peaks) and also the fact that Warner’s little helper in Waxwork is a hilarious sounding dwarf who looks like he should be being told to make it look like he’s talking backwards by David Lynch. Double whammy Twin Peaks references…damn, I need to get out more.

With an obvious fondness for destroying characters’ heads (squish!), Hickox lays on the gore with some degree of style and to be honest, the OTT ending is quite good fun. It just takes a little too long to get there. The whole concept of horror movie dimension-jumping is great, as is the idea of casting Patrick Macnee. His sword-wielding entrance in his battletank-wheelchair (think Corey Haim’s wheelchair in Silver Bullet!) at the film’s climax raised hearty laughter among tonight’s ZC, and it’s fair to say that although the end provided a much-needed lift, it just wasn’t my bag. Not bad though, and there may be just too many reasons to check it out.

“So, my pretty…you came down for a little midnight snack!”

Waxwork

Director
Anthony Hickox

Cast
Zach Galligan
Deborah Foreman
Michelle Johnson
Dana Ashbrook
Miles O'Keeffe
Charles McCaughan
J. Kenneth Campbell
John Rhys-Davies
Patrick Macnee
David Warner

Rating
Jim
Rawshark
Zomblee

Runtime
97 mins

Available From

Amazon UK
Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992)

Plot
Zach Galligan meets a host of celebrity B-movie stars and becomes a Time Warrior, or something.

Jim
Waxwork II: Lost in Time picks up right where the first movie left off, i.e. just as Zach and his heroine escape the burning waxworks of the first movie (Rawshark is right, I can't think of a waxwork movie that doesn't end with it burning down either). They get a cab home away from the blaze - as you do - but unfortunately a severed zombie hand from the Night of the Living Dead exhibit escapes with them and later that night kills the heroine's father. Predictably no one believes her wild claims of monsters coming to life and she's blamed for the murder, so it's off to Patrick McNee's house to muster up some evidence to corroborate their story. But as you'd expect, they get more than they bargained for. Our heroes find a magic compass which points to Time Bandits style magic doorways and they're off again, bouncing from horror movie to horror movie looking for proof that will clear the girl's name.

Whereas Waxwork encapsulated all that was both good and bad about 80s horror, Waxwork II: Lost in Time sadlly misses a lot of the good stuff. The problem with it is simple, it wastes far too much time pissing about in the medieval setting with a bunch of new characters that are quite frankly crap. When the flick is doing what it does best, i.e. effortlessly bouncing between cool genre homages, it's great. The problem is there's just not enough of them.

But despite being a mostly dodgy excuse for a sequel, Waxwork II shares one cool thing with its predecessor; a couple of the horror tributes are brilliant. Maxwell Caulfield in a silly Aliens piss-take made me laugh, mainly because my girlfriend loves Grease 2, but when an on-form Bruce Campbell turns up in a black & white parody of The Haunting, we all cheered out loud. And when the climactic battle between Zach Gilligan and the blonde guy from Die Hard spills over into the mall from Dawn of the Dead - complete with blue-faced zombies and SWAT guys - I think we all let out a huge sigh of relief as it signified that the bollocks middle-ages bit was finally over. Phew.

Still, you can only do so much with other peoples ideas and when it's left to it's own devices this film falls flat. Um, and there's no waxworks in it either, so if you hadn't seen Waxwork recently you wouldn't know what the hell was going on.

"Of course it's me, this is the only way they'd let me appear in this one..."

Rawshark
“Previously on Waxworks…”
Right, let’s get this straight - this film contains references to Aliens, Evil Dead, The Haunting, The Dawn of the Dead, Jack the Ripper, Nosferatu, Godzilla and Frankenstein and has a cast that includes Bruce Campbell (with his open chest being eaten by birds, no less), Martin Kemp (extra bonus fun-factor if you know anything about Eastenders), David Carradine and of course the returning Zach Galligan, yet still manages to turn out largely like a waxwork nut-sack.

How? How can that be? Well, really it’s simply a terrible premise. With no engagement, there’s just too many ‘er.. what?’ things happening that you just have to force yourself to forget anything about the plot (“You’ve stumbled into God’s Nintendo game” / “You mean God wants to be a Time Warrior!”) and just remember it’s just a crap excuse to cram in as many horror-related spoofs / scenes as possible, because that’s what made the first film so fun, yeah? Yeah well, we liked that enough in the first one that we kind of forgave (just about) the lack of good story and character, so why should you make another that includes even an even worse storyline and no real sympathetic characters at all?

Thankfully there’s just about enough craziness swirling around that some of it sticks, and special mention must go to Martin Kemp’s terribly bad head squish, the Dawn of the Dead sequence, Bruce Campbell’s torture sequence, and the return of the best character from the first film, Zombie Hand, who actually pops up to save the day. Ladies and gentlemen, give that boy a (er..!) hand. (Sorry…) A fun film then, but in an annoyingly boring way.

“This nonsense is going to make me miss my dinner!”

Zomblee
Waxwork II: Lost in the Plot!
Again, the “plot” has been covered already, so lets take a look at what there is to enjoy about Waxwork II: Lost in Time. Fast, original and funny, it takes you down a very bizarre journey through horror sub-genres but does so in a way that makes you not care less about what it all actually means. Hickox can’t do characters very well and it tends to let everything else down. Having said that, a film with a title like this is not going to have characters to rival Dirk Bogarde in Bertolucci’s Death in Venice or de Niro in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. What we get instead is a kind-of bigger and better version of the first film, albeit with no actual waxworks.

A major strength is the way in which their travel through time is presented as a journey through the classic worlds of horror, and one can sense that a real effort was made in attempting to lovingly recreate these respective settings. Hickox even goes so far as to film his The Haunting homage in black and white. Nice touch.

Throwaway cameo appearances invariably strengthen the spoof aspect. If anything, the cameos are a highlight. First-off, old-school John Carpenter regular George ‘Buck’ Flower is featured as Sarah’s dad although not for very long; he gets killed by the severed hand (“It doesn’t have any leverage!” - Jim). Martin Kemp’s appearance will take any British viewers by surprise in his ham-sandwich turn as Baron von Frankenstein. We also have Bruce Campbell – much loved by all at Zombie Club. To this day, I have no idea how Jim could possibly keep his mouth shut about Campbell being in this movie. Credit where credit is due Jim, it was a welcome surprise! Last but by no means least, we have the one and only David Carradine. Nuff said.

Whether Waxwork is better than Waxwork II (or vice versa) is open to argument, although there really isn’t much in it. They are both disappointing and worthwhile at the same time, and for mostly the same reasons. A fun, tongue-in-cheek homage to horror classics for horror fans. Sounds a lot better than it is.

“You piece of rotting cartilage!”

Waxwork II: Lost in Time

Director
Anthony Hickox

Cast
Zach Galligan
Monika Schnarre
Martin Kemp
Bruce Campbell
Michael Des Barres
Jim Metzler
Sophie Ward
David Carradine

Rating
Jim
Rawshark
Zomblee

Runtime
104 mins

Available From

Amazon UK
Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


Conclusion
Growing up in the 80's and watching these kind of movies on their initial release (albeit straight to video) it is perhaps easy to over-estimate how good these movies actually were, especially sat next to Zomblee - Mr 70's himself. Still, some of the big glossy studio set-pieces are pretty nice and the uncut version of Waxwork in particular has some nice surprises, so let's be thankful for small mercies. The unrated region 1 Waxwork double feature disc can be picked up from Amazon market place for about 6 or 7 quid, and at that price these two flicks are well worth a gander. Maybe not the best Zombie Club ever, but not all that bad either.

Damn, I was sure it was that bird from Baywatch...


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