Tuesday, December 1

The Other Redbox Rental: My VHS copy of Waxwork (1988)

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Both Waxwork and this particular tape have great sentimental value to me. This is my long defunct local video store's copy purchased on the tail end of their VHS liquidation to move into the DVD age. I grew up with this shop and can remember being only knee-high to the bottom row of Thriller Video's Elvira Presents big boxes looking up at rows and rows of horror VHS goodness. This slipcase of Vestron Video's unrated Waxwork is obviously cut all to hell with its scissored parts pasted onto a huge red box. The cassette is lined in rotting black foam cushioning and slides out from the box's open top.

The rental place, which was actually tucked in the back of a small convenience store/pharmacy, didn't always butcher boxes like this. When I was a youngster, all the boxes sat uncut with the tapes lined behind in the counter in foggy plastic cases. Then sometime when I was first entering my teens; they greatly reduced their entire selection, began slicing cardboard, and kept the tapes in these boxes. I rented this very copy quite a number of times when I first started getting heavy with horror when I was around fifteen along with the Genesis cartridge of Streets of Rage 3 since that game rocked.

Eventually the rental portion of the establishment closed for good after years of waffling with trying to have only the latest big mainstream flicks on DVD while selling off the "old" discs. Blockbuster had been chop blocking at its legs and the emergence of VOD and Netflix finally slammed the last nail in their coffin. The layout of the place looks identical today; but the video store is now replaced with greetings cards, plastic flower bouquets, and junky knickknacks. Though I had to have this copy of Waxwork (for a pretty crazy $8 considering) because even years before their fall the writing seemed on the wall for at least a really shitty sea change in their stock.

Popping this in last night, the nostalgia was rich. The tape starts with trailers for the Corey & Corey megapowered Dream A Little Dream (as Coming Soon to Theaters) and the super-fuckin'-awesome trailer for the original Man on Fire starring Scott Glenn that cribs pieces of James Horner's Aliens score (see it here). Waxwork begins and for a twenty-year-old VHS it looks and sounds quite good. It's hard for me to critique this one since this little contemporary '80s horror movie has seemed to have always been with me.

Waxwork is a film compromised of endearing little touches that are as important to itself as they are to a real waxwork. This is the "fullest" Anthony Hickox film I've seen with heaps of loving homage paced out well over its ninety-seven minutes. The lead characters and the point of the wax museum don't mean much with the fun of the teleportations into each wax scene. Bob Keens excellently hokey monster and splatter effects work to only heighten the experience. I always got the willies from the Dracula segment's eaten leg and the werewolf's makeshift vivisection.

The cast really gets into the spirit and respects Hickox's kind vision of something more meaningful than just another serrated hackfest. It's obvious David Warner relished playing the snide and dastardly head of the mysterious waxwork. The ever-overly theatrical John Rhys-Davies appears as a man doomed to the howling and once transformed badassly brushes off a chair breaking over his hairy shoulder. Action man Miles O'Keeffe finds a fitting purpose for his Dirty Harry accent ("steak TAR TAR") as a romance novel version of Dracula. British veteran Patrick Macnee is a wheelchair-bound big game hunter in a role that really should have be expanded. The stunning Michelle Johnson's stuck-up China was probably my first on-screen crush. Not to mention the midget (err...little person) butler who castigates his fellow seven-foot youthful Lurch partner who crumbles like a baby at verbal punishment.

Waxwork is just fun that's great to visit every once in a blue moon and smile. It's the kind of good-hearted, sweet '80s horror hindsight that makes you wonder how the mainstream rendition of the genre got so bogged down in suffering and ardent emphasis on murder. Considering how cheap Artisan's Part 1 & 2 DVD can be found, owning this gem is a no-brainer.
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2 comments:

Jenn said...

I feel ya, Jay. I had a similar video store experience growing up. I would eventually work at said video store in my late teens (towards the end of the video tape age) and when they closed, my brother and I took most of the horror vhs tapes with us, hence the largest part of my collection still today.

But Waxwork, oh Waxwork. It really is Hickox's labor of love, isn't it? I can revisit it again and again and never get bored with all that it has packed within it's running time. Completely wonderful. And doesn't it make a cameo in Hellraiser III?

Good shit, my friend.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I enjoy Waxwork and its premise...but to me the film falls apart in its last segments, with the whole cheesy battle of good guys vs fictional evil creatures.

That whole sequence just feels so low budget, so unfinished, so half assed. Still, this movie does have its charm!

Other Anthony Hicox films I enjoy are Hellraiser III and Warlock II.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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