Sunday, August 17, 2014

REVIEW: WAX from Victor Matellano - Night of the Living Paraffin

Wax Museum Horror is a thing as old as horror movies themselves. Think of your favorite. House of Wax, Nightmare in the Wax Museum, Even a movie that is an extension of the wax museum concept in Tourist Trap which has its own wax based terror scene and of course Waxworks featuring David Warren and Zach Galligan facing off in a battle of the supernatural and stiff. There's a new film on display that should be arriving soon whether via festival or direct release from Spain from first time feature director Victor Matellano, WAX. While Matellano has directed a couple shorts, this is his first time behind the lens on this scale and may I say he does a fantastic job. Wax is perfectly creepy combining elements of previous wax museum efforts with effective modern twists and gore shellacked by the seductive/menacing dichotomy of the Spanish screen favorite, Jack Taylor. Oh it's a glorious release,and while I don't have an a time frame for you to enjoy it yet, I want to wet your palette. The hype-pot needs a-stirring.

Synopsis from Spanish Fear:

Wax tells the story of a young journalist employed to spend a night at Barcelona’s Wax Museum, where paranormal activities are supposed to be taking place. He must record everything happening there. In the museum there are different wax figures including Dr. Knox one, a sadist cannibal surgeon who loves dressing up as Vincent Price in House of Wax. Soon, the journalist will start feeling he is not alone….

While this is Matellano's first endeavor into the feature market he did direct a documentary about Spanish horror called Clawing: A Journey Through The Spanish Horror. I haven't had the chance to enjoy that or his previous two short though I hope to amend that soon enough. What it tells me about our director is that he is a man who understands Spain's rich film history; what works and what is missing from modern Euro horror. It's no surprise that Paul Naschy's voice is used as a narrator through the wax museum. How delightful a treat for fans of old Spanish Horror. It's this understanding of Horror-past that assures his vision is filled with mysterious shadows and moments of terror and tension left only to the imagination as we wait for the our villain to emerge. Of course he also understands Horror in a global sense and even employs the image of Vincent Price, star of House of Wax to give a complete sense of history to this production.

Jack Taylor plays the well educated and even well mannered, Dr. Knox, a man who became infamous for his experimental cannibal cuisine. In this role we learn that Taylor can convey two completely different emotive experiences in a single scene, saying the same words and all the time selling his beautiful vision of tasty humans on his plate to an audience who wouldn't hurt a fly. He is both a gentleman and a maniac. He is a seductive serial killer with a hearty appetite and discerning taste buds. There are things discussed in Wax that I had never knew existed ie there are restaurants where people will pay to eaten rotten meat!  When Jack Taylor turns frightening his eyes become vacant and hollow, the eyes of a ghostly predator. It is in this moment that we being to see a bit of Coffin Joe in Taylor's performance and long for a series of movies based around the character Dr. Knox. Also you can see hints of Naschy as Alaric de Marnac or Waldermar Daninsky; what a tribute to Spanish Horror and perhaps a segue of Spanish Horror to come.

The only fail in Wax may be Jimmy Shaw's performance. Please understand that he is a fine actor and this is not meant to be demeaning to his ability. Perhaps he played the character Mike too comedic; not the true victim I would hope for. He plays scared well and does inspire the proper panicked reaction from the viewer later in the film, but there are moments where he comes off whiny or perhaps a bit too scared to the point of melodramatic. This may be an attempt to make him unlikable and conversely make us root for the villain in the picture (something easily done with Jack Taylor's menace and monster). When the lights go out (and they do) most of this semi-humorous performance goes out the window and the twists begin to stew in your brain. It's a minor issue I had with the film and does not detract overly from the enjoyment of the picture.

This is a gory romp with plenty of slice 'em, dice 'em surgery scenes. Dr. Knox covers his victims' eyes in wax which looks painful and reminded me of Davy in Tourist Trap exploding hearts and covering pretty girls' faces with mannequin goop. It has moments that might even feel like they were taken out the Saw or Hostel franchise which was not wholly expected given the otherwise subtle moments that seems to mark the film almost Lovecraftian. These moments of exploit and vulgarity are well timed and provide a perfect balance to the otherwise atmosphere driven horror the extends through the entire picture.

We will keep our eyes out for further info about this films release, but until then I urge you to follow it on Facebook and Twitter to keep in the know about the next steps for Wax. This is a movie you're going to want to see and a movie that let's me believe the Spanish Horror has the chance now to do something exceptional things even in Spain's film industry's stall due to financial crisis. People are daring to make horror pictures and good ones at that. Follow Victor Matellano and support them. Matellano's next project is a big one. He has written and directed the remake of Vampyres which many of you know was slated to involve the original filmmaker who passed away, Jose Ramon Larraz. This is a project to support upon its release as well to see the legacy of Larraz live on, a sort of passing of the torch to Matellano.



Thanks to Spanish Fear for helping to make this review possible. Check out their write up on this feature HERE

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