I watched these movies on VHS at a pivotal moment in my development--post-"Pet Semetery"-related trauma and pre-"Suspiria." For those of you unfamiliar with the "Waxwork" movies, they're post-"Evil Dead" horror-comedies in which stereotypical late-eighties teenagers get sucked into various horror scenes through supernatural means, leaving only the virgin and the wrongly-done-to-but-decent man alive. The first film is a pretty straightforward "body count" picture in which aforementioned teens set out to thwart the diabolical plans of an evil wax museum owner. The second film is entirely more wacky (I've mentioned the inner cringe that occurs whenever I hear a slide-whistle or El Kabong sound effect accompanying an action scene) and--frankly--made me a little ashamed on behalf of Almost-Fourteen-Year-Old Me. As frightening as this is to confess, I've actually gotten more sophisticated over time.
There's a lot to love about the first "Waxwork" movie. Let's note some discussion points:
- Evil midget doorman at the museum (TRUE FACT: said little person actor also donned the ALF suit in that relic of cocaine-induced Eighties television)
- Miles O'Keeffe (yes, the dude who played the Conan-inspired character Ator in a series of crappy-yet-AWESOME Italo-barbarian flicks) as Count Dracula. Seriously--whose idea was that? I either want to shake that person's hand or ensure they get the proper medication.
- Watching David Warner stifle the giggles as he plays the scenery-chewing villain is worth the price of admission.
- A werewolf rips a dude in half. I feel like my Scottish ancestry, what with that whole inclination towards "hewing in twain," entitles me to my love of death-by-bisection in films. Because I love you and want you to be happy, here is that very scene, for your enjoyment:
- This film is also notable for employing a rather piratical version of the Marquis de Sade as one of the key baddies. Innocent as I was at the time (use your imagination, smartasses), I found this scene to be Of Particular Interest. Fancy outfits, outrageous boots, fussy accents, kink--it was entree into a new world of cinematic excellence! Admit it, you're curious:
"Waxwork II: Lost In Time" is... rather another matter altogether, and I feel kind of terrible for pitching it to my movie-viewing companion as "having a really neat Frankenstein scene in it." I should amend my spiel to go something like "Warning: This movie has head-explodey in it for a minute, but is otherwise filled with slapstick comedy that is guaranteed to make you wince and also has a rapped theme song." Yes, friends--the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had blazed a brave path through the pop culture landscape, leaving it littered with references to pizza and video games. While "Waxwork II" could've achieved "Street Fighter"*-level so-far-past-bad-it's-excellent-ness, it... didn't. Instead, I kept wishing I was watching "Army of Darkness." Adding a small role played by Bruce Campbell did not help this state of affairs, and structuring the film to recreate scenes from other, better movies just hammered more nails into the coffin. However, the head-explodey was still pretty neat, so I'll include that here and save you the rest of the ninety-five-plus minutes of movie-watching. Bonus points for the fact that Older Me recognizes the dude from Spandau Ballet playing Baron Frankenstein!
The film's Finishing Move comes in the form of the end-credits theme song, the crappiness of which I can only hint at by including the trailer below. The previously noted Ninja Turtles influence can be felt here, making this movie an inheritor not of the Hammer Films legacy, but rather of the MC Hammer legacy. The refrain is even now haunting my waking moments:
Stuck in time
Like a bug in a jar
No matter where you go,
There you are.
Pray for me, internet friends. I may descend into gibbering madness at any moment. Let this be a lesson to anyone who dares traipse the path of nostalgia--you may come back humming a rap with lyrics about bugs in jars.
*Seriously. Watch "Street Fighter" starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia. I fucking dare you to come away from that unchanged if you watch it past the scene in which the Sumo wrestler is tortured by the giant Russian guy.