Given that the CV of schlock-pumping horror house Dark Castle includes Thirt13n Ghosts, Ghost Ship and - - shudder - - Gothika, you'd be forgiven for anticipating House Of Wax with some trepidation. And, yes, sticking firmly to the template for boshed-out remakes, it's populated by fresh-from-TV talent, a music-vid helmer and a soundtrack amped with, like, totally rawkin' bands. Not forgetting celebri-totty Paris Hilton, whose acting exploits thus far have been limited to slightly more handmade and, er, intimate material.
But while many of your suspicions, (not to mention lowered expectations) are met, this House does boast something plenty of recent horrors have lacked: guts. And brains. And severed fingers... Yes, we're at gore-factor nine, the producers for once not shy of lingering on a variety of sick, blood-slicked slayings.
Don't go in expecting to care for our random pack of characters, though. There's the odd stab at personality development (Cuthbert and Chad Michael Murray are twins with issues, etc), but everyone's a stereotyped target for waxy death: the spunky heroine, the bad boy, the token black guy, the slut and the comic relief. The cast do what they can - - Paris makes the most of her debut, even if she is playing to type - - but it's a shame that the exuberant 3-D madness of the '50s version (itself a remake of 1933's Mystery Of The Wax Museum) has been stripped away for a bare-bones stalk'n'slash thriller that offers very little fresh meat.
The rare moments of real creepiness come not from the cheap, telegraphed jumps, but from the eerie atmospheric sets and unsettling idea of wax-coated corpses. Kudos to the design team, then, even if for all the beautiful production work and gory goodness, horror aficionados won't be able to forget the char-grilled ham of Vincent Price in his leering breakthrough role.