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Review: ‘House of Wax’ Is Mostly Cliched

May 6, 2005

Paris Hilton has finally found her calling. It’s not functioning as a professional socialite and party girl, though walking the red carpet is an activity she has elevated to an art form. It’s not designing perfume or jewelry or clothing for small dogs. And it’s not transforming the English language through simple declarative sentences.

Paris should scrap all that – and her reality TV series, her record label, her nightclubs and any other attempts at being taken seriously – and realize her destiny as a B-movie scream queen. In “House of Wax,” it’s something she reveals herself to be scary-good at.

She’s got the looks for it, with her blinding blondness and her blatant sex appeal. She runs really well while being chased through the woods at night in a lacy, red bra and panties (and does the obligatory face-plant before getting up and scampering away, barefoot). And she’s capable of unleashing a blood-curdling scream en route to her eventual, graphic demise.

Like her or not, Paris does generate an undeniable curiosity (or you could call it a train-wreck factor). When she’s on screen, she’s the one you watch. When she’s off screen, you wonder when she’ll come back, and what sorts of vapid things she’ll say when she does.

The lovely Elisha Cuthbert – no slouch in the looks and magnetism departments, as she’s proven through “24″ and “The Girl Next Door” – pales by comparison, though she is the intrepid heroine of the movie, a remake in name only of the 1953 3-D flick, so she’s relegated to playing the serious one.

Cuthbert’s character, Carly, and her attractive, idiotic friends do what young people are supposed to do in a scary movie: They go on a road trip from Florida to Louisiana for a big college football game, travel on back roads and fall victim to the deranged, redneck locals.

Also in Carly’s caravan: her boyfriend, Wade (Jared Padalecki from “Gilmore Girls”); her twin brother, Nick (Chad Michael Murray from “One Tree Hill”), a bad boy who hates Wade; Paris’ character, Paige; her boyfriend, Blake (Robert Ri’chard from “Coach Carter”); and a dopey, trucker-hat-wearing dude named Dalton (Jon Abrahams), who has brought along a hand-held video camera, seemingly for the sole purpose of setting up a Paris Hilton Sex Tape Joke.

After the group camps out overnight, Wade realizes he needs a fan belt for his car, forcing him and Carly to hitch a ride to the small town of Ambrose, with its famous House of Wax.

Similar to the Vincent Price original, the figures in this museum aren’t exactly what they seem, something Carly and Wade realize too late. They become the targets of Bo, the creepy gas station owner, and Vincent, his creepier twin brother who’s also a sculptor (Brian Van Holt plays both roles). When their friends try to find them, they naturally become toast, too.

Like Paris, commercial and music-video director Jaume Collet-Serra and screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes show a keen sense of camp with their first feature film. “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” plays at the run-down movie theater, and everything else about the town exudes a self-knowing weirdness.

But the movie descends into a series of graphic killings and slasher-flick cliches, making it impossible to feel scared or care on any level.

The climactic scene – a fire at the house of wax, which is literally made of wax – does result in an impressively messy meltdown. That part was pretty cool. Or as Paris would say, that’s hot.

“House of Wax,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated R for horror violence, some sexual content and language. Running time: 105 minutes.

One and a half stars out of four. Paris Hilton has finally found her calling. It’s not functioning as a professional socialite and party girl, though walking the red carpet is an activity she has elevated to an art form. It’s not designing perfume or jewelry or clothing for small dogs. And it’s not transforming the English language through simple declarative sentences.

On the Net:

http://houseofwaxmovie.warnerbros.com/

Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G – General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG – Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 – Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R – Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 – No one under 17 admitted.


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