The Rube’s Review: Waxwork (Vestron Pictures, 1988 )
The words “Accordion Time” have very little meaning to the mass public. If you yelled those two words in a crowded, packed elevator or at the express line at your local supermarket I’m sure that people would just go about their business… or they might go outta their way to stay away from you. To my friends and I, Accordion Time only means one thing. It’s time to watch Waxwork.
Waxwork is about a Scooby Doo gang of friends… well, not really a gang of friends, they’re more like a group of bitchy rich kids that happen to know each other, minus the dog. There’s also 6 kids, not 4… come to think about it, this movie has nothing to do with Scooby Doo. Anyway, Waxwork starts with a group of smug, trust fund brats and their lame Melrose Place drama. They go about their pointless lives until a couple of the “in crowd” girls happen to walk by a new wax museum (Caligariesque Waxworks) on their way to school. After scaring the Daphne and Velma of the group (Michelle Johnson and Deborah Foreman) with the old “not moving then moving living statue” routine, the proprietor of the museum introduces himself as David Lincoln (Tron’s David Warner) and offers the “kids” free passes for a special showing at midnight.
Later than night, the Richie Rich 6-Pack head over to the waxwork but lose two members on the way due to “something just doesn’t feel right” vibe. The Fred of the group (Zack Galligan of Gremlins fame) assures everyone that it’ll be OK and after some more 90210 drama with Daphne (trust me, at this point it doesn’t matter what the character’s names are), they enter the musuem where, one after one, they cross (and sometimes get pushed) over the velvet ropes of the displays. This is where the real fun begins. Once over the threshold of each display, they enter a realistic version of the chosen waxwork diorama and take part in that world, usually as a spectator in historical attire. After the hopeless victim meets their demise (and they do), their waxed body becomes a permanent edition to the grizzly death scene.
So, essentially, the movie’s premise is this: some crazy murderer who made a deal with the devil for immortality and great power uses black magic and monster wax replicas to create “death scenes” which will come to life. However, for this transformation to work the waxworks need 18 human sacrifices (18? That’s such an odd demonic number. What happened to good old number 13? Was 13 just too cliché?). After all 18 (not 13) human scarifies are complete, the waxworks (and their victims) will awake and bring Hell on Earth.
The first sucker is the stoner aka “most annoying of the group” (played by Twin Peaks’ Dana Ashbrook). As Shaggy crosses the rope at the wolfman/log cabin diorama to pick up a dropped lighter (sure, why not?), he’s magically transported to a forest scene wearing raggedy clothes and long hair. Thinking that it’s all a drug hallucination (“Who put the acid in my drink again, China?”), the young cabin boy enters the house of lodging to find a man in mid-wolf change. A villager sadly tries his best to stop the werewolf but gets his head crushed and then ripped right down the middle. While super drunk at my friend’s house, we would rewind that part to see it over again… rewind, fast forward, rewind, fast forward and you got yourself ACCORDIAN TIME!
Overall, the movie is well done for such a small budget flick. The whole waxwork idea is very creative and you just can’t wait for the next death scene to unfold. Yeah, the teen drama is entertaining and funny at times, but the true stars are the waxwork themselves. The dioramas and monster makeup are fantastic and make you forget that this movie was done on the cheap. It’s a great late 80’s horror romp.
My only pet peeve (other than teen drama) is that is focuses too long on Dracula & Marquis De Sade vignettes and too quickly on Night of the Living Dead (which is in black & white). After watching the film, you really wish that they could have spent more time and budget on the other (cooler) looking waxworks. However, when there’s an all out battle between the newly resurrected monster army VS what can only be described as a mixture of VFW and Neighborhood Watch, it totally makes up for those missing woulda/coulda scenes. I won’t tell you who wins, but this is definitely a movie that any monster movie fanatic will enjoy.
Waxwork is available as a Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (Double Feature) which includes its sequel, Waxwork II. It’s not as good but has some cooler alternate worlds of horror and sci-fi. One alternate universe pays homage to the 60’s classic The Haunting, with guest appearances from Marina Sirtis (ST:TNG) and Bruce Campbell – definitely worth checking out.