House of Wax (2005): Dualism, Body Horror, and a Stupid Amount of Wax
Dualism of the Good Twin/Bad Twin
I don’t believe at all in the whole one good/one bad twin though I do believe in self-fulfilling prophecy in being told you’re bad until you become that way by default and oddly, the dickhead role of “the bad twin” works for Chad Michael Murray as Nick. Elisha Cuthbert plays “the good twin”, Carly. Nick is the one getting them through everything with a take-no-shit vibe, so in this way, his badassery is serving him. The fact that he’s even willing to go back into that wax-filled house of horrors speaks volumes to find his friends knowing they are most likely dead; a very honorable “leave no man behind” thing. Good twin, my ass, huh Carly? Being good in a life-or-death situation is for the birds, anyway.
I enjoyed how the bad twins were conjoined again in death, consumed by the wax they used to kill others; the dualism symbolism was quite heavy-handed but still enjoyable. Still: don’t label children against each other, or maybe at all. Might reduce the wax-related issues here on out.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Bo has this charming, Southern gentleman, cowboy thing about him-he turns out to be the evil twin with the whole, “looks can be deceiving” trope, but the later evolution with him as a villain saying “it’s a shame we have to close that pretty mouth of yours” gave Deliverance vibes. Less Southern gentleman and more cannibal hillbilly (or at least murderous hillbilly). We also see him tape down Elisha’s character, which is a callback to the child being taped down (it’s him!)
Vincent is the maker of the wax figures, probably told he was evil by his real evil twin because of how he looks (also the long, fake black hair is a Halloween costume waiting to happen); this feels like a comment on the disfigurement-as-villainous trope. In a decent world, Vincent wouldn’t need to hide behind wax masks nor would audiences automatically assume he’s the true villain from his face. That hallway with the wax, candles, and faces that Dalton stumbles in is like the Phantom of the Opera had way too much wax on his hands (and time) + the facial disfigurement he would hide/murder-y side. (Maybe this is just a Phantom of the Opera reimagining.) His unmasking is also quite upsetting. Every person we come across is a creepy murder man, which I assumed anyway when I first watched this not because of looks or even manner, but because this is a horror movie and everyone is a possible weirdo/suspect/psycho.
Not a ton of brotherly love here; Bo is awful to his brother, calling him stupid and a freak in frustration but also has pity for him while he watches his fix up his face, telling him kindly that ma would be proud of what she started with the wax town and that the wax talent makes up for what God took away from Vincent in his face.
The theme of dualism comes back with the knife cutting through the Siamese twins in the crib Carly pushed in front of the door; this is the time for possible separation. Carly almost convinces him not to hurt her because he isn’t the bad twin, but he’s too lost in his brother’s ways. His brothers are all Vincent has.
The Uncanny Valley of Wax
Wax museums ignite the Uncanny Valley in us for sure; this is common with dolls and robots: they look like us but aren’t, which sets off alarm bells in our evolutionary systems. We don’t like things that aren’t us to resemble us too much, which raises its own questions.
Wade (Jared Paladecki) is way too excited about how detailed the wax stuff is; I’m going to be honest though, I think I’d revel in the weirdness, too.
This is a very decent body horror movie; I was disturbed a few times, to be honest because the way they are exploring the concept of “existing parts” underneath the wax figures and the uncanny valley aspect.
Everyone gives Paris Hilton shit for being stupid in general (especially around this time period) but there was nothing wrong with her character and she had a point when Elisha’s character is like ready to follow a terrible smell and Paris is like, “Why?” Also ugh, what a nightmare to fall into a parts pit (I don’t know what they’re called), but way to make the audience convulse.
I want to see more of this particular house of horrors, and how they process the bodies; it makes you wonder when the point of death is during the preparation. The contraption Wade is being loaded into alone is the stuff of nightmares and the wax shower makes me want to retch; then the idea that Wade could still be alive after being wax-ified is horrifying and the wax being so tightly bound to his skin that the skin comes off with it is gag-inducing. That machine is like a Saw nightmare compounded; the movie repeatedly reinforces how fragile all our vulnerable areas are (necks snapping, head shots, limb breakage etc.) which is the basis of body horror: we are breakable, we will decay, and that is truly scary as we navigate a dangerous world.
Meanwhile, Carly is deep in the wax city of weirdness realizing these figures are made from existing parts and Trudy from the story is in the coffin. (That had to be a lot to process in one day on top of having her lips superglued and the top of her finger cut off.)
A lot of knives used with Blake being jugulared and Dalton’s head severing, and seems to be Vincent’s main form of weapon.
Paige’s (Paris’) death was pretty good; not many people get a javelin pike to the head (lot of head trauma just in general); the sounds her head made were disgusting. This whole movie is so fiendishly skin-crawling that it’s amazing more people don’t discuss it.
This is So Much Wax
First, where do you even get that amount of wax and keep it from melting on a hot summer’s day? These are the real questions. I just can’t get over it. And if the whole place is wax, it would not be my instinct to go upstairs because it’s all descending into the fire pit from hell, just saying. Another question: the candles give us some more eeriness and an old-timey vibe, but wouldn’t the wax structure melt?
The stairs melting on Nick then the the knife cutting through the wax door is some quality weird imagery.
Final wax thought: this is all going to dry so weird.
Telling One’s Own Story/Plot Twists
The folklore being told by the person it’s about is a great plot device because then they control the narrative/how it’s seen. The story: the wax museum was famous for miles around with Trudy was the main wax artist, Vincent was one of her sons who followed in her footsteps. It is implied heavily that they’re all dead now when Bo is the other, very violent boy. Doc SinWasclair was a city doctor who got his license revoked, so they moved to Ambrose for a fresh start, but Trudy developed a cyst in her brain that had her rotting away, which had her strapped to a bed and whole town could hear her screams (sounds like a fitting punishment for strapping her own kid down constantly at the beginning). Doc blew his head off, and the boys ended up in foster homes.
The town not registering on the GPS (because it isn’t a real town, which is a trip), is so weird to me and taps into this idea that these murder towns could be anywhere. If there’s a psycho willing to engineer it, it can be done. It was no surprise to me that the third son came back up and that he was the third son, but I enjoyed that they didn’t leave the open plot hole.
Thanks for viewing ‘House of Wax (2005): Dualism, Body Horror, and a Stupid Amount of Wax’ by writer Victoria Jaye.
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