Ever since Blu-Ray won the war as the dominant high definition format over the almost completely forgotten HD DVD, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the upgrade for Anthony Hickox’s 1988 cult classic horror mash up, WAXWORK. It was one of those titles that I rented repeatedly on VHS and was just absolutely in love with. Throwing multiple monsters into a horror flick is usually the quickest and easiest way to my heart, but adding both Michelle Johnson (BLAME IT ON RIO) and Deborah Foreman (VALLEY GIRL) to the cast definitely helped put this at the top of my repeated viewing list.
And the only version that’s made its way to DVD was a low quality, full frame, R rated double bill with the not-quite-as-good sequel. Ever since then, it’s been slowly rotting in the vaults at Lionsgate who, somewhere along the line, inherited the title. Finally, no longer shall it rot! They’ve dusted off some of the legendary Vestron video favorites from storage and restored them for proper Blu-Ray releases under the “Vestron Video” line, purposely and successfully tugging at our nostalgic little black hearts.
So far, they’ve done a stellar job with their first two releases out of the gate, CHOPPING MALL and BLOOD DINER. But this was the one I was most excited about. And it arrives just in time for Halloween, as its most certainly one of my recommendations for the season! Finally getting to enjoy the movie in pristine high def, in widescreen and completely uncut has been a treat! Here’s a few reasons I love both the movie, and this Blu-Ray release of it.
It’s A Monster Mash Of The Funnest Sort
Around the time that I originally discovered WAXWORK at my local video store, I was a full-fledged werewolf fanatic. Fox had their series WEREWOLF on the air. If you don’t remember it, do a quick search on You Tube and marvel at this awesome television series that took the exact same formula as THE INCREDIBLE HULK and substituted it with a werewolf on the run. Reason I bring this up is because the first major horror set-piece we see in WAXWORK revolves around a werewolf scenario, and it is awesome! The creature looks great, the kills are over the top and spectacular, at one point the werewolf gently brushes his arm after just being hit by a chair in a comedic beat and then with the shot of a silver bullet, is put down!
If you don’t already know the plot, WAXWORK is centered on a Waxwork museum that randomly pops up in town run by David Warner. Each of the wax figures represents a different horror legend from a different time period. If you walk past the barrier of the wax set piece, you literally walk into that horror movie. So, in a weird way, we’re getting the best bits of multiple movie monsters. Dracula, The Mummy and umm… Marquis de Sade? As writer/director Anthony Hickox says in the disc’s interviews, what if you just skipped to the last 10 minutes of every Hammer Horror film and just had a movie of all the good bits? Led by GREMLINS star Zach Galligan, that’s exactly what we get in this excellent monster mash of the funnest variety.
When I first stumbled upon that unrated VHS tape of WAXWORK, I was already a voracious reader of Fangoria magazine and completely fascinated by the magic of special FX make-up in horror films. So, it’s great to finally relive all of WAXWORK’s great gory bits for the first time in years! A werewolf tearing a man in half straight down the middle. A Mummy stepping on the head of a follower. Vampire’s feasting on the flesh of a victim’s leg, it’s all here! And as grotesque as it gets, it’s the type of over the top gore that will have you cheering aloud and laughing as opposed to turning away in disgust. It’s just awesome.
Vintage Making-of Special
Among the special features on this new release, I was pleasantly surprised to find a 24 minute vintage “making of” featurette from the time the film was completed and released! While I love new retrospective documentaries and getting to see & hear from the stars and talent behind these films today, there’s something fun about looking back in time and getting to hear from them nearly 3 decades earlier. It opens with an introduction by actor Patrick Macnee talking about the movie but from behind the editing bay! I love that it’s like he’s sitting there editing the movie himself! And it’s interesting (and maybe slightly awkward) to see a joint interview with both Anthony Hickox and Deborah Foreman on the stairs of one of the sets while shooting and genuinely showing tremendous affection for one another, considering it’s no secret that they were in a relationship at the time. Their messy breakup was the reason Sarah was recast in the sequel! And of course, any time hearing from David Warner is time well spent. He talks about his trepidation in doing another horror feature until he met with Hickox and learned that the director had recently been an extra on a show Warner had done back in London. For some reason, that won him over and thankfully so. He’s one of the best things about this movie.
Extensive Documentary Series “The WAXWORK Chronicles”
Where it’s always fun to look at vintage materials, it’s also exciting to hear from everyone today as well! And Red Shirt Pictures had put together a feature length series of featurettes that all add up to one epic documentary titled “The WAXWORK Chronicles.” Almost all the principles are gathered and we get some insight into the making of the picture, the release and how the sequel came to be. It’s great to hear from Bob Keen, who ended up doing the FX on all of Hickox’s movies. Bruce Campbell pops up to talk candidly about how he did his 4 days on WAXWORK II just so he could prep for ARMY OF DARKNESS. And also included is an interview with David Carridine! Where the hell did this interview come from?! The actor has been gone since 2009 and yet here he is in a never-before-seen interview talking about WAXWORK II! All these years of waiting for a proper release have paid off. There are enough behind the scenes tidbits to look at every aspect of production and the films’ cult legacies. And I haven’t even gotten to the newly recorded commentaries yet!
A New-Found Appreciation For WAXWORK II
Confession – as much as I loved the original WAXWORK, I’ve never been a fan of WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME. I think because, at the time, as a young kid, I kind of wanted more of the same. And the second one deviated in several ways that my young horror mind couldn’t cope with. For starters, not only has Sarah been replaced by actress Monika Schnarre (who is fine in the role), but she purposely doesn’t resemble the former Sarah at all. And while humor was a big art of the first one, the humor from the original pic is front and center in the sequel. Whereas the set pieces were pretty close to what a Werewolf, Mummy and Dracula film would be like in the original, the second one veered off a bit with its sort-of-ALIEN riff, homage to THE HAUNTING and a quick montage that gives us a pretty goofy looking Godzilla. That said, I do like the concept. The hand from the end of WAXWORK Part 1 follows Sarah home and murders her abusive father. She then goes on trial for not only his murder, but the deaths of all the people that died in Part 1! And then Mark (Galligan) travels through time again. I will say this, Bruce Campbell steals the movie. And his bit in the torture chamber with his chest fully exposed induces the sequels biggest laughs. That said, taken out of context as it’s own horror feature, (it was released in the UK simply as LOST IN TIME upon initial release), I have a new found appreciation for the flick in this package, and for that alone it’s worth revisiting.
While I like films like BLOOD DINER and CHOPPING MALL just fine, WAXWORK is among one of my all time favorites, because as I’ve said a bunch before, I’m a sucker for monster mash movies. And this is one of the best! If you’ve already been a fan, you’ll love this package. And if you’ve never seen it, this is absolutely the best way to discover it.
Now bring on that uncut RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 3, Vestron Video!
You can check out an exclusive clip from the WAXWORK special features at our previous news post here!
You can hear the Shock Waves gang talk more about the WAXWORK Blu-Ray release on the episode embedded below!