House of Wax Is in Effect Y'all

by filmenthusiast2000
May 13, 2005 12:44 PM
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"Horror movies tend to reflect the cultural climate in which they were created. German Expressionism rose out of the horror surrounding World War I. The science-fiction and horror movies of the '50s conveyed the suspicion and fear of the atomic age. In the '70s, horror movies reflected the anxiety and paranoia that followed Watergate, while the postmodern slasher movies of the '90s mirrored the jaded irony that characterized so much of that decade.

So what does the glut of recent horror remakes say about the culture as a whole? It's easy to assume that American studios have run out of ideas and are now reduced to cannibalizing their own past. House Of Wax reflects this trend in its purest form, but goes even further by ostensibly remaking 1953's House Of Wax while actually remaking another horror classic. In terms of plotting, characters, setting, and tone, House Of Wax is essentially a Texas Chainsaw Massacre knockoff, with the fetching Elisha Cuthbert taking over the screaming and running duties." -Nathan Rabin, Onion A.V. Club

Copious LOLZ are really the only appropriate reaction to Mr. Rabin's Cliff's Notes sprint through a marathon of shopworn accepted truths, missing only "in the wake of 9/11" to cover all of his bases. In two paragraphs that practically scream "I've only watched the dozen horror movies deemed 'Essential' by some Premiere magazine Halloween list, yet consider myself a qualified genre critic," Rabin neatly sums up the slack critical reaction to one of the best American horror outings in recent memory. It's to be expected; since House of Wax doesn't take the time to remind viewers of its self-aware canniness, pelt us with genre in-jokes, or revel in retro trappings, there's really no Pavlovian buzzer to make thick-headed critics sit up, pay attention, and write like they give a damn.

A propos of the remake whine, a typical grouse of insecure critics eager to prove their staunch dedication to "the real thing," it's worth noting that before 1953's Vincent Price vehicle, Michael Curtiz had directed 1933's Mystery of the Wax Museum from the same material, originally a play by Charles Belden. And to call Texas Chainsaw the proto-slasher is just… retarded. But then knowing any of that would require a sense of film history that doesn't allow for such easy inflexible categories as old/authentic vs. new/synthetic, and an aesthetic sensitivity that doesn't rely on single-sentence decade-by-decade summaries of film art. Plus a exhausting trip to imdb. More to the point: shut the fuck up Nate; you don't know your horror movies, and you sound like an asshole to anyone who does.

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