Monday, October 17, 2016

WAXWORK and WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME (#Vestron Blu-ray) - Take a Closer Look

Let's get something straight right off the bat. I realize that it's Lionsgate releasing these titles under the Vestron name or brand. I have chosen to refer to these releases as having come from Vestron and coming from the Vestron Collection and simply include a label about Lionsgate in my tags for the post. I do this because isn't it much more fun to think of these releases as coming from the great and sacred V? The Vestron we knew and still adore? It helps to perpetuate our nostalgia, and it brings back from the dead something we all hold dear as genre fans. Let's not get snippy, or try to bring each other down over something that is pure fun. Had to get that off my chest because I see quite a few Blu snobs trying to play social media one-ups-man-ship with fans who choose to say Vestron. Vestron lovers unite. You are clearly not alone, and know that Doc Terror is friendly to your cause and to the cause of Vestron (or Lionsgate's excellent marketing idea).

On to Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time. We have quite a bit to discuss, and it is most certainly good.

I first saw Waxwork taped off TV and then shortly thereafter mentioned in a Horror TV documentary that focused on the vampire segment. I was thrilled. This is a movie that plays on everything I hold dear in Horror, included some of my favorite actors and had a rich score with history and spook sensibilities. Of course it was cut for TV release, and so I missed out on some of the juicier bits and enjoyable language. I've seen it since, and while it was finally uncut it never looked all that great. It was in dire need of the Blu treatment. Waxwork needed a friend. It needed a distro company and a prayer that said distro company could give it a backstory. It's not every day that a movie is released that clearly is made for Monster Kids. Enter Vestron. Enter a jampacked release. Take a closer look with me.

Both Waxwork and Waxwork II look very good. This is a serious upgrade in terms of quality on both releases though I think Waxwork II actually benefits the most even if the original Waxwork is the one I was looking forward to the most. You'll be impressed with the color and black, as well as the clean, undamaged prints. While these are movies released in the late 80's and early 90's respectively, they still could have been left in a bad way prior to their HD release.

The cover art on the front is a split image double feature presentation. The slip cover has the Vestron Collection branding and the inside case does not. It contains artwork for each movie on each side of the card, so you can choose which one to display. The extra package is divided across two discs. That was a surprise for me as well. For some reason I assumed that this double feature set would be on one disc, compressed. This is another example of Vestron caring, and while one of the complaints I have seen about their new line up is the price point, this is two full disc of material, not just one. Let this add value to the release for those who may be questioning whether it is wallet worthy. Both discs feature still galleries, trailers and commentary tracks featuring Anthony Hickox & Zach Galligan. Disc 1 has the added bonus of a vintage making of featurette which is pure 80's gold. That's all well and good and fun. It's nice to see what qualified for a making of reel in 1988. Where this set shines for both feature films is the Waxwork Chronicles. This is a six part series that details every aspect of production for both releases. There are interviews and production notes. It's everything you could want to know about the releases. What's more is that this Chronicle shows how much the filmmaker and actors cared about each movie even though they seemed like small time Horror pictures. As a fan of these flicks, it's something special to see the folks behind the movie care as much as they do, and to see how that passion carries over into their film. The Chronicles is a must watch featurette nay FEATURE on the disc that spends a great deal of time with some of our favorite waxwork monster scenes. Also, the second disc features a music video for one of the songs in Waxwork II. I'm not going to say it's good, but I am going to say you MUST watch it.

Waxwork shows off the perfect collection of your favorite monsters. All the biggie monster movies are present, even some modern ones. When you cross the rope barrier that protects the wax displays from customers, the displays come to life. The displays get up and kill! Simple as that. From there you get an almost anthology style tale of Horror featuring a few of the choicest tales in the wax museum's arsenal. Some stories are more traditional like the tale involving the mummy others are more modern like the vampire tale that clearly is Dracula, but has a unique take on the whole mess. Perhaps the story that feels the most out of place is the tale of the Marqis de Sade, but I assure you that it works well and has some of the most erotic and most fun performances offered. While I won't spoil it wholesale, the ending of this picture is one giant orgy or monster scenes. Your favorites are there. They are alive. They are trying to take over the world.  

The original Waxwork is one bloody, gory picture. Nearly all effects are practical. There are missing limbs, folks split in two, whipping, steak tar tar. The works! My favorite monster makeup is featured in the werewolf tale which seems to emulate The Howling. That's my favorite type of werewolf design. Standing on hind legs, big ears, lots of hair, not traditional wolf looking at all. The performances are over the top, completely. It works brilliantly to sell the absolute gonzo horror that unfolds in almost play-like performances. You'll notice David Warner as the curator of the waxwork. He is a brilliant villain, and underutilized Horror performer. I sincerely admire him. Zach Galligan offers a strong performance as the rather privileged leading man who rises to the occasion to continue the family tradition of fighting the forces of evil. 

Waxwork II: Lost in Time is a movie with which I am less familiar. I was always so taken by the original that I never gave the sequel as much attention. The basic premise is that our surviving characters from the original film return to fight the forces of evil only this time they aren't just up against wax displays that come to life. They are fighting the forces of darkness throughout time and also battling the legal system. This story is less concrete. The original was simple and almost a throwback to mad scientist flicks of the 50's. Waxwork II makes the same variety play as the original movie only finds itself a little sloppy. Scenes seem to drift into one another where the original felt a certain separation of the tales. The compartmentalized nature of the original tales allowed for a great variety of villains without feeling rammed down our throat. The sequel does not show the same discretion. 

The violence isn't exactly as exaggerated as the original, but many of the performances work. Not as good, but absolutely watchable and enjoyable. I feel like my take on Waxwork II comes off as though I did not enjoy it. I did but clearly not as much as the original picture. Where the original had a soundtrack that was built to scare, the sequel almost has a hokey score. The use of Sing Sing Sing in the original opening sequence is unforgettable. There's nothing quite like that in the followup. 

Enjoy this set. It's the perfect way to enjoy all your monster movies at the same time especially if you're in a bit of a time crunch. Waxwork is a childhood favorite of mine, one that embodies everything I enjoy about Horror. Vestron has given me a chance to relive some of my fondest Horror memories, and hopefully a way for new Horror fans to reconnect with classic 80's Horror that pays proper respect to monsters throughout the ages. Monster Kids MUST pick this one up.

You can pick up Waxwork and Waxwork 2 from DiabolikDVD now:

From Vestron:

In WAXWORK, a private midnight showing at a local wax museum turns to mayhem when its soul-sucking wax exhibits come to life! Inside the wax museum a group of teenagers are aghast at the hauntingly lifelike wax displays of Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and other character members of the Horror Hall of Fame. Each display is perfectly grotesque, yet each is missing one thing . . . a victim! Admission to the WAXWORK was free but now they may pay with their lives! One by one, the students are drawn into the settings as objects of the blood thirsty creatures. They are now part of the permanent collection. Having escaped the fiery destruction of the original WAXWORK, Mark (Zach Galligan, GREMLINS) and Sarah (Monika Schnarre, TV’s BEVERLY HILLS 90210) face another grueling ordeal in WAXWORK II, when Sarah is accused of murdering her stepfather. Fleeing through the doors of time in a desperate search for proof of her innocence, the two lovers find themselves caught in the eternally recurring battle between good and evil. Together they must stop one of the most powerful and demonic figures of all time — Lord Scarabus. WAXWORK SPECIAL FEATURES Audio Commentary with Anthony Hickox & Zach Galligan Featurettes: “The Waxwork Chronicles” (Parts 1–6) Vintage “Making of” Featurette Theatrical Trailer Still Gallery WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME SPECIAL FEATURES Audio Commentary with Anthony Hickox & Zach Galligan Theatrical Trailer Still Gallery

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