It's best if you don't look at House of Wax as a remake of the Vincent Price classic, as the two have very little in common. Still, it's hard not to go into this movie with a slightly negative attitude, given that whole "remake" stigma and the fact that Paris Hilton plays a significant part in the story. Personally, I pretty much expected to be disappointed. The first half hour didn't do anything to change my perspective, really. You've got a stereotypical group of young people camping out in the woods on their way to a big football game, and you eventually start asking yourself, "Wasn't there supposed to be a whole House of Wax thing in this movie?" There's a menacing truck kind of thing, but that's about as scary as cutting your fingernails. Still, you do get to know the characters a little bit - not that you would really want to know most of them. The only interesting character is Carly (Elisha Cuthbert), a seemingly smart young lady with an actual future. She's unhappy because her friend Paige (Paris Hilton) and her loverboy invited her brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray) and his loser friend along on the trip, as it sort of puts a cramp in her lifeless style of her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki). Nick's supposedly a tough guy with a prison record, living up to his label as the evil half of the Jones twins.
Nothing really happens until Wade wakes up to find his car has been damaged. While their friends head off to the big game, Wade and Carly make their way to the nearby town of Ambrose, home of the once-famous Trudy House of Wax, in search of a fan belt. They should have known things just weren't right when they found the town basically deserted, with Whatever Happened to Baby Charlotte? listed on the marquee of the local movie house. Wade's a real nosy Ned who thinks he has the right to trespass anywhere he pleases, including the closed wax museum. The pair do manage to find a mechanic eventually, though, which sounds like a good thing but really isn't - because that's when things finally begin to take a rather gruesome, bloody turn. In time, all of the major characters find their way into the increasingly surreal town of Ambrose - but all of them do not make it back out. As you can probably deduce by the title, the designated bad guy(s) here are much too lazy to make wax sculptures from scratch - it's just so much easier (not to mention more lifelike) when you can just cover an actual person in wax.
Much to my surprise, this actually turned out to be a pretty good slasher film. The problem, of course, is the fact that we're so inured to slasher films that it's almost impossible to make a really effective one anymore. For me, the whole situation never managed to generate a truly effective sense of menace. For one thing, there's no mystery as to who the bad guys are; even Shaggy and Scooby Doo could have figured this one out, since there are only two people in the whole town. Wax or no wax, we've seen all of this before. Some of the deaths are fairly entertaining, though (although I would have preferred more gore and a more direct look at the actual killing moments).
These aren't the brightest kids you'll ever see. First off, they go and take a shortcut on their big road trip - that always lead you to some detour into the heart of hillbilly monster country. When they should be running, they choose instead to try and hide underneath the nose of the killers, and, naturally, they actually keep going back into danger to try and find their missing friends. If I ever find myself in a ghost town full of wax dummies, hunted by some sick freak wanting to add me to an exhibit in his wax museum, I'm going to run until my legs fall off. After all, friendship means not having to say you're sorry when you leave your buddies behind to die horrible deaths. I don't guess that would make an interesting movie, though.
I guess I should address the whole Paris Hilton thing here. Believe it or not, she is not the worst actress in Hollywood; you aren't going to spend any time at the water cooler telling your buddies what an incredible performance Paris gave in this film, but she isn't all that bad in a role such as this. She could never have handled the primary role of Carly (since, after all, we're supposed to root for Carly to survive), but she's quite acceptable as fodder for deranged killers.