UPDATE — Big news, that will also help answer some questions I posed in this article, a proper Blu-ray of Waxwork is being released.
Waxwork, I want to say is my most favorite horror film of all-time, but that’s a tough slot, so I’ll default to saying it’s definitely in my top 10, which is overflowing with dozens of titles (you know how that goes).
It’s just so good. To try and put it into terms I think most people will understand, what the Evil Dead trilogy is to hardcore fans (I too love Evil Dead don’t get me wrong), the Waxwork films are to me, only sadly, the trilogy was never completed.
I’ve asked both Zach Galligan (the star of Waxwork, its sequel, and the would-be second sequel) as well as Anthony Hickox (its writer and director) over on Twitter (here and here) if the trilogy will ever be completed.
Continuing with our analogy, that would then make Anthony Hickox the Sam Raimi of Waxwork.
The reason it’s necessary for me to be analogical is simply because Waxwork is such an incredibly obscure, underrated, hidden gem, I want to be damn-sure you know just how awesome it is and that to me, despite its lack of commercial success or even a cult following (that I’m aware of), it’s every bit as good as Evil Dead and you don’t want to miss it.
For such a low budget, this film is chock-full of really amazing and scary special effects, amazing licensed music (Tchaikovsky anyone?), as well as some very notable actors (David Warner and John Rhys-Davies for example).
The entire atmosphere of the film I personally find to be overall very serious, spine-tingling, frightening, and melancholy, but also full of humor and tons, I mean tons of horror movie homages and references. This is definitely a movie made by a horror fan, for horror fans.
And if after watching this film from beginning to end, that isn’t abundantly clear, it’s set-in-stone with the last few lines in the credits, reading:
The sequel, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, turns the dial on seriousness down a bit and the dial for comedy and fantasy way up. Speaking of being like Evil Dead, the sequel, while still having plenty of pop culture references and horror movie homages, takes its influence heavily from Evil Dead with a lot of comedic, over-the-top gore moments.
In fact, it was filmed the same year as Army of Darkness and the similarities between the films are striking (time and space travel, other dimensions, medieval setting, comedic Sam Raimi style gore).
While according to IMDb they were filmed the same year, apparently, Waxwork II released first, but that doesn’t mean of course that Anthony Hickox couldn’t have had a private screening of Army of Darkness sooner. I’d definitely be more curious to learn about that (maybe we can get ourselves an interview with Mr. Hickox?) because it feels like a big love letter to Evil Dead.
And again, if you were to somehow miss those nods and queues, you’ll certainly not miss the hilarious and very surreal cameo by Ash himself, Bruce Campbell:
UPDATE — Although Waxwork II is indeed clearly influenced by Evil Dead, it was shot before Army of Darkness. This is verified in the new Blu-ray release interviews, where Bruce Campbell mentions that he was on set for Waxwork II for 4 days, before moving onto begin shooting for Army of Darkness.
There’s also a great and very quick cameo by David Carradine:
Waxwork II also had some fun, tongue-in-cheek end credits:
Godzilla AS HIMSELF
Filmed Entirely in THE 4TH DIMENSION
Which also had an obligatory made-just-for-the-movie end title rap music video playing along with the credits as horror films of the ’90s often had:
“Lost in Time” by The L.A. Posse
Oh, and by the way, look at the stunt players, Kane Hodder — it was a complete accident that I took the screen right there, as I didn’t know he did stunts in this. Looks like he did stunts in the original as well.
The final in the trilogy, some fan sources rumored, would have been called Waxwork III: Through the Gates of Time, which apparently had a poster prepared for it with the tagline “The only exit is… infinity!” (could have been fan-made — but if anyone can track that image down, please comment below) and with a plot more deeply buried in wizardry and medieval fantasy than even that of the second film.
UPDATE — While there may still be some interesting tidbits below, pretty much all the following concerns are now moot with the new Blu-ray being released.
Because of Waxwork‘s relatively low success, it’s fairly unlikely that we’ll ever see a Blu-ray release (Scream Factory — here’s looking at you, you’re our only hope in these matters). About the best version we’re likely to ever see can be found over on Amazon here, which is a release of both films, unrated and in 4:3 (fullscreen) format, which according to the back of the DVD box, was what it was filmed in (though I can’t verify that on IMDb or Wikipedia).
However, for those that are in the UK or otherwise have a more advanced setup for viewing imports, I found this version, which according to the run-time, may only be the rated version, but in 16:9 (widescreen) format. If it was really only filmed at 1.33:1 (which is not widescreen), and assuming these specs are correct, that would mean this is just an upconverted or stretched version. But, it was cheap, so I ordered it because it couldn’t hurt to check it out, it could even have better quality otherwise (so we’ll see when it gets here).
Even stranger though, you can order both Waxwork and Waxwork II from Amazon Instant Video, rated versions, with Waxwork II being available in HD!? Either they have a really loose definition of what HD is, or this is one of those rare occasions where a company like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. buys up the rights to thousands of titles in a catalog and end up digitizing better versions or even unreleased versions than that of official DVD and Blu-ray releases of the same film.
UPDATE — Alright, so I just went ahead and rented both on Amazon Instant and they both look and sound way better than any current DVD release. However, they are the rated versions. Waxwork is still 4:3, but Waxwork II was definitely a proper 16:9 in HD (dare I say Blu-ray quality), so I have hopes for the original as well and the possibility of proper, widescreen Blu-ray releases I feel now at least, can be done. It’s probably just a matter of demand and if it’s worth the cost to produce them at this point, considering the studios even remember them in the first place to give them any thought.
And if you’re thinking to yourself, if there’s these great copies available over streaming services, why not a proper DVD or Blu-ray release? First, I feel your frustration, but second and more importantly, there are a lot of tangled up copyright issues when it comes to releasing TV shows and movies, especially when licensed music is involved which can only be complicated further by obscurity and years past.
Streaming can get through such red tape quicker because they’re not under the same kind of stipulations a hard copy release would incur. It’s closer to the deals made with movie channels, a non-exclusive temporary lease of the catalog. This is also true of The Keep, that is available over streaming via Netflix Instant Watch, but that can’t get a proper Blu-ray release, though I’ve created a petition for one (for even the slimmest chance that petitions ever affect anything).
It’s a strange world that we live in that sees all kinds of creative works like this being locked away in studio vaults for years, indefinitely, or even to the point where they’re so damaged that restoration is no longer possible.
Anyway, whatever shitty and limited source from the limited options available you might consider (which are all dirt cheap) in order to watch Waxwork, I highly recommend that you do in fact watch it if you’ve never seen it, cause you’re missing out. Great film, and to me, a classic.
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