First, just so everybody knows the most important thing about House of Wax: Paris Hilton has an awesome death. Everybody knows she's going to die--she's in a teenybopper horror movie and she's not the star, so her getting killed is pretty much a given--so the real question is if her death is going to be good. Not one of those lame movie deaths, where the victim just falls on something sharp, or gets hit by a car. No, the cinematic death of Paris Hilton--appearing here in her first major role since One Night in Paris--needs to be gory, and funny, and ludicrous. I won't ruin it, but it is all of those things. And she's wearing red lingerie when she goes. In Paris Hilton's death scene, at least, you won't be disappointed.
Which is good, because the rest of House of Wax is pretty lame. Apparently cast with only a copy of Twist magazine for inspiration, the film follows some unlikable teens who get stuck in a town plagued with an overabundance of wax sculptures, some murdering psychopaths, and such finely tuned dialogue as "It is wax… literally!"
That unfortunate line belongs to Chad Michael Murray, who's taking a break from trying to act tough on the WB's One Tree Hill to try and act tough as Nick, a kid who's stranded with his sister (24's Elisha Cuthbert) in the aforementioned creepy town. And for the first hour, things are kind of creepy. Director Jaume Serra takes his time, setting up a nicely disconcerting tone--and he even has the smarts to deflate Paris Hilton's incongruous presence by including a night vision shot of apparent fellatio.
Then, in spectacular fashion, it all goes to shit. While the first hour is entertaining and slowly distressing, the second is anything but--loud, cartoonish, predictable, and vaguely pathetic it its gory ineptness. (On the upside, the film concludes with a truly magnificent display of over-budgeted, unconvincing CG--there's more droopily melting, computer-animated wax than one could ever imagine fitting on a movie screen.)
Man, but Paris Hilton's death scene! It's a classic, I'm telling you. It's enough to make you wish they'd made a better movie in which to kill her off.