DECEMBER 20, 2010
Looking back at my review, I was surprised to discover that it was over two years ago that I had watched the original Waxwork, but the length (and thus, the associated memory loss) had a small benefit for Waxwork II: Lost In Time – I had no idea that the actress playing Sarah, the hero’s girlfriend, was changed. I’m sure die hard Waxwork fans were all like “This sucks, how can you do this!” and such, but I had no idea. Nor, I suspect, would I care if I had.
I also forgot that Zach Galligan (not replaced) was kind of a douche in the first movie, because he’s just a goofy schmuck in this one. He’s still a rather ineffective hero, but in the first film he was constantly saving his own ass, whereas here he tries to help others and often bungles it. For example, when a character gets an exposed rib cage as the result of a bat attack, the guy asks for water to soothe the pain, and Galligan throws vinegar on him instead. Oh you wacky goon!
The guy, by the way, is played by Bruce Campbell, who I wish was in the movie more. His role, like many of the others in the film, is more or less a reprisal of a horror movie character, in his case Dr. Markway from The Haunting. Because this time, instead of being stuck in a wax museum where classic characters have come to life, Galligan and Sarah travel through “time”, seeking evidence that will clear her name for the murders in the first movie. But in this movie, the different time periods are represented by not-very-loose homages to classic horror movies. The Haunting, Alien, Dawn of the Dead, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers are a few of the more obvious examples, in addition to generic Frankenstein and giant monster movies.
It’s a fun concept, but it’s not a particularly good movie. For starters, the rules keep changing – sometimes they know who they are, sometimes they think they’re characters in that particular era. The clothes change, yet Galligan retains a T-shirt at one point. Also, it keeps the real villain of the film away for far too long, as they’re constantly fighting (and quickly defeating, or at least escaping from) new adversaries.
Also the tone doesn’t quite make sense – it appears to be aiming for a younger audience, with the silly humor and broad physical gags, but it’s also quite gory, which earned it an otherwise pointless R rating. It doesn’t look like it ever played in US theaters, so I guess it doesn’t really matter (did video stores ever card? Mine never did), but it’s still baffling. Oddly, Campbell’s appearance (and a medieval sequence) reminded me of Army of Darkness, another film that had an undeserved R rating (fought, unsuccessfully, by Sam Raimi), which was released around the same time. MPAA and blood, man.
Some of the humor works, luckily. Campbell is always fun, and I laughed like a loon at a sight gag in the opening scene, where the judge for the trial is drawing Sarah hanging from a gallows. The opening scene (also reminiscent of an Evil Dead sequel, in this case ED2) is also a delight, with a Thing-like disembodied hand murdering Buck Flower and causing general chaos around Sarah’s dingy house. Speaking of Flower – why is she on trial for this? He’s Buck Flower, of course he’s going to die. They can’t try you for that, can they? But there’s a lot of painfully unfunny scenes too, such as when Galligan watches a video will, which includes “responses” to the things he wisely assumed Galligan would say. Ugh.
Not all of the effects are as successful, either. Many of the sets are clearly just soundstages in/around the Universal backlot (look out for shaky walls!), and the time warp portal thing is just awful looking. There’s also a painfully awkward moment where our “shapeshifter” villain just sort of waves his hands around, and then there’s a jarring cut to his “true” form (not even from the same angle), with that actor (Karl from Die Hard!) waving his hands around as well. Couldn’t they have at least done a Wolfman-esque fade from one to the other, if they couldn’t afford some of those cool early 90s morphing effects? Did they just forget?
It’s also too damn long. 105 minutes for what’s basically the climax of Shocker stretched out to feature length form is a bit too much to ask. They could have cut the inane Alien segment entirely, that’s for sure. I also could have done without the Jack the Ripper scene, since Galligan seems to be more concerned with saving the girl in the scene than fighting his nemesis. Some of these scenes just seem to be trying to connect the film to the original, which is a nice touch, but they didn’t have to go through ALL of them, especially when it just slows the movie down.
Also, not for nothing, but uh... there’s no wax. Kind of early in the series to be abandoning its key plot hook.
Oh well. I didn’t love the original either, but I can’t imagine fans were too enthralled with this one either. It’s not terrible, but it’s very bland, and less than 24 hrs later, I’m already having trouble remembering chunks of it. Did Campbell die? Ah, who cares. Just watch (the similar) Stay Tuned. At least that had the awesome Three's Company gag.
What say you?