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Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost In Time – Collector’s Series (Blu-ray Review)

WaxworkLast month saw the debut of Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series line.  Finally digging into those vaults of not just Vestron Video, but Artisan and other studio catalogs that Lionsgate had acquired over the years.  There are some major horror gems that have been getting sat on that people have been screaming for on Blu-ray.  And now, they are making REAL good on that (You paying attention Warner Bros?).  Vestron Video continues its resurgence with its third release, the Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost In Time double feature.  These are actually (Maybe moreso the first movie) some titles that people had been begging for that are now coming to fruition.  This double feature also isn’t just one disc with two movies share, they’ve let them each have their own disc.  Going even further, the cover art isn’t split, they’ve given each their own full presentation (You just have to pick a side you want on the outside display). 

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Waxwork (Unrated) 

Inside the wax museum a group of teenagers are aghast at the hauntingly lifelike wax displays of Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and other character members of the Horror Hall of Fame. Each display is perfectly grotesque, yet each is missing one thing . . . a victim! Admission to the WAXWORK was free but now they may pay with their lives! One by one, the students are drawn into the settings as objects of the blood thirsty creatures. They are now part of the permanent collection.

Director Anthony Hickox seemingly wanted to do some sort of classic monster movie or movies, but didn’t have enough material to make just one.  So, instead, he makes a modern movie with a plot device that can visit little sketches or segments of them.  Its actually quite brilliant of an idea.  His debut film Waxwork is a fun, nostalgic visit to classic, gothic horror while maintain a youthful and modern sensibility.  And on top of that, the film winds up being a pretty impressive gore effects and make-up showcase.

Waxwork may not be a neat and tidy or perfect all around film, but it works.  Some of its lesser qualities (Acting) are made up for by the fact that the film’s script plays things seriously, but the productions seems to know how goofy it is.  It works in the sense that this movie may have frightened some in their youth and may not now, but instead provides a good solid, funhouse ride with plenty of exploitative thrills.  This movie has too much charm and love for horror to ever have someone turn on it.  I mean, for crying out loud, this movie features a werewolf that rips someone’s head in half!  C’mon, that’s awesome!

The cast of Waxwork is a pretty fun one.  Its one of the most notable non-Gremlins films that Zach Galligan did.  He tries his best, but he’s kind of miscast here.  Kinda hard to buy him as a bad boy, and he sometimes has these overdone aggression moments.  Twin Peaks’ Dana Ashbrook is there for a little bit, but is fun.  Deborah Foreman is a pretty nice find here in the film and gets a really sort of twisted and fun part. The film also features some good spots by veteran actors John Rhys-Davies, Patrick MacNee and David Warner.  All three of them chew up scenery with every moment they can get, and you gotta love that.

If you’re a fan of horror, namely classic horror, Waxwork is a fitting loveletter to it.  The film features a lot of classic monsters, scenarios and sets to make you just giddy and gaze with awe.  On top of that, the film is super fun and features some really awesome killer.  Being the unrated cut, it doesn’t shy away from the blood and splatter.  Its also both gruesome and appropriately gross at times.  In an also peculiar choice (That I’ll touch on in the next one), there’s a theme that is a knock off on Thompson Twins “Hold Me Now”. People have been clamoring for its Blu-ray release, and its really easy to see why.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Waxwork’s Blu-ray debut is already a step up compared to the previous DVD release just purely in terms of the aspect ratio.  That release was 4×3 (1.33:1).  I’m not sure what sort of restoration or scan this release was done at, but looks very please.  Its pretty sharp and the details on the image are pretty strong.  You can see little marks and such on brick and rocks within the museum.  Characters’ clothing patterns and textures come through quite well.  The butt of a cigarette shows its pattern.  I’m not sure if this is the transfer that’s going to shock the world, but from what fans of Waxwork are used to, this is a pretty significant step up and should make viewing it as fresh as the first time.

Depth:  Depth work on the film’s image isn’t necessarily flat, buts more average.  Character movements are cinematic in nature.  Background imagery is pretty good for what the focus will allow in the given scene.  There is a solid separation between the characters and the environments they are in.  The best stuff probably comes in the darkened showcase hall of the wax museum itself where all the scenarios are on display.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and rich.  There is some good work done with shadows and minimal detail is lost in darkened environments and outdoor nighttime sequences in the film.  There was no crushing to report in this viewing.  Dark clothing, hair and surfaces still pull through plenty of detail.

Color Reproduction:  Waxwork features some rather regular, but nice looking colors in its palette.  Of course red is a superstar here in the image.  It pops and manages appearances both vibrant and bold in nature.  There are a lot of Gothic horror scenarios in this film with very natural colors and this picture manages to display them and have them looking elegant and cold at the same time.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones have a natural appearance and maintain that throughout the film (Give or take a certain scenario’s aesthetic).  Details like dried blood, wrinkles, stubble, scars, make-up and the like can be seen in close-ups and decently in medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: This is a pretty clean image and features a nice, natural and healthy layer of grain kept intact.  The image looks pretty fresh.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Waxwork’s Blu-ray debut features the original stereo mix.  Its pretty light on the low end material, but otherwise is a solid clean track.  Vocals, sound effects and music all work together nicely in tandem and never step on one another’s toes.  Sound is crisp, with effects being able to shine with hearing good layering and gushing kills with depth.  This mix also features some very good back and forth movement of sound between characters and action sequences in the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  The vocals in the film are crisp with good volume and plenty of clarity.  Diction is capture very well.  No matter the intensity or loudness of the action going on onscreen, dialogue, pants, grunts and whatnot are still plenty audible and don’t feel artificially boosted in the mix.

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Waxwork II: Lost In Time 

Having escaped the fiery destruction of the original Waxwork, Marl and Sarah face another grueling ordeal in WAXWORK II, when Sarah is accused of murdering her stepfather. Fleeing through the doors of time in a desperate search for proof of her innocence, the two lovers find themselves caught in the eternally recurring battle between good and evil. Together they must stop one of the most powerful and demonic figures of all time — Lord Scarabus.

With the first film, Anthony Hickox went through a handful of famous monster and horror story scenarios in a wild and fun adventure.  His sequel, coming four years later, seems in a rush to include everything he wasn’t able to get into the first movie.  It feels like a series of b-sides from the first one.  There is no mystery this time around and thin plot that almost makes this adventure feel aimless.  This one is also overly long and lingers on probably some of its least interesting scenarios (Medieval times…yawn).  Waxwork II does save itself in the very end with a balls to the wall crazy swordfight that hits some key moments.

Scenarios in the film wind up going beyond just being the classic and Gothic monster films that were covered in the first film.  This one goes for more recent films, or more advanced at the time.  In this one, you have fun riffs on Alien, Dawn of the Dead (featuring some sweet costuming) and the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  You also go way back with a Nosferatu called back (That features a cameo by Drew Barrymore).  And in some balls to the wall craziness, there is a little riff on Godzilla as well for good measure.

In the review for the first film, I touched on the Thompson Twins knock off in the score.  This sequel one ups that.  The main theme of Waxwork II: Lost In Time, is a complete knock off of the theme from Suspiria.  There is no mistaking it for Goblin’s track.  Its so close it could be considered for infringement.  With how this film plays, kits probably intentional and a piece of homage, but it winds up being oddly distracting.  Whereas something like Re-Animator takes the Psycho theme and sort of owns it, making the music its own, this film just can’t quite get over the hump as the music just sounds like the elevator version of it.

Once again this second film features some great genre actor cameos in the film.  Bruce Campbell shows up early on in one of the sequences and is pretty terrific.  In that same segment if Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Marina Sirtas…looking super fine in a  classic ghost hunting adventure.  As mentioned before, too, is Drew Barrymore in a spot you might actually miss if you’re not paying attention.  David Carradine even shows up for a little bit in the medieval sequence. Topping it off is that Alexander Godunov, the blonde goon from Die Hard, is the ultimate villain in the film.

Waxwork II: Lost In Time is still plenty of fun, don’t get me wrong.  Its just a little too long, and seems to run out of steam through some of its run time.  Mainly its in the middle.  But, the film picks up and has a fantastic finish.  If you like the first one, you’re probably going to find some enjoyment in it.  Just judging it as a sort of anthology film, it works better than having an overall arc.  Its more of the same, and that same from the original film was a pretty fun time.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Waxwork II: Lost In Time’s Blu-ray debut is a transfer that both impresses and kinda disappoints in areas at the same time.  The disappointing area is in the coloring the flat look it sort of carries with the palette.  However, it makes up for it with a sharper and very detailed image.  You can make out little finger prints and gloss on a sword’s blade.  There are details like wetness on bricks and the decay of cobblestone that look quite good.  Clothing textures and patterns also look strong.  The only wish for this transfer is that it didn’t look so dim and had much more pop to its colors.

Depth:  This one isn’t awful, but its kind of on the flat side of things.  Some close ups prove to have a spacey relation between foreground image and background.  There is also a driving sequence using rear projection that looks nice.  But for the most part its kinda “eh”.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and dark on the picture.  Some details do get lost in them in medium and far shots due to the flat appearance of the color scheme.  No crushing happens in the image.  Grain is much heavier when things are darker as well.

Color Reproduction:  Here’s the big problem area with the transfer for Waxwork II.  The image looks like someone went and zapped the color from it.  Its doesn’t have much of a vibrant look and is pretty dingy and dim in its appearance.  A taxi cab as well as yellows in some areas are the only really highlight of anything close to popping.  There are moments where reds look pretty solid and some blond hair looks nice, but overall strength of the image is weakened by its wimpy colors.  Oddly, the final scene in the film actually looks pretty good.  Maybe that reel was in the best shape.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a little milked of their color and have a bit of a paler look to them. It manages to keep this look throughout the film. Details are still clear though. You can make out wrinkles, stubble, sweat, moles, blemishes and scars in medium and close up shots.  Really strong details, like make-up and coarse skin show through in close ups.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean, there is a thicker layer of grain in this one compared to the first that proves to be heavier in dimly lit scenes and nighttime sequences.  Though its not very heavy in the black and white segment for some reason.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  While Waxwork II’s image didn’t best the first one, its audio track is a bit better.  There are more low frequency sounds in a deeper mix.  There is a lot of well choreographed back and forth with action and sounds in this mix.  It also has a healthy sense of ambient sounds in this to play with.  Lots of portal sounds and haunted hallows become abound.  Once again, the score, dialogue and effects are blending well together in a balanced effort.  Its also a little livelier or louder sounding too.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are loud and pretty clean.  Echoes and such fit environments, as well as diction fully fit and are well represented.  Volume placement is also accurate with characters and their distance relevant to their spot on the screen.

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Extras 

Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost In Time – Collector’s Series is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set with each film getting its own disc. The cover is reversible with one side containing the original poster art and specs on back for Waxwork and the other side containing the original poster art and specs on back for Waxwork II: Lost In Time.

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Audio Commentary

  • With Anthony Hickox and Zach Galligan

Isolated Score & Audio Interview With Composer Roger Bellon

The Waxwork Chronicles (HD, 1:22:17) – A 6-part feature length documentary that covers the gamut of the entire series.  Many of the cast and crew return (More cast from the second), and for some that didn’t, they throw in archival interviews.  David Warner and David Carradine appear.  Carradine’s interview is kind of creepy because it looks brand new and like it was shot for this.

Vintage “Making Of” Featurette (SD, 24:05) – A vintage making of.  Hosted by Patrick MacNee.  Features onset interviews with the cast as well as a look at some of the effects work.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:02)

Still Gallery (HD, 7:55)

Waxwork II: Lost In Time

Audio Commentary

  • With Anthony Hickox and Zach Galligan

Isolated Score and Audio Interview With Composer Steve Schiff

Music Video (SD, 3:50)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:03) – The picture quality on this honestly looks better than the film itself.

Still Gallery (HD, 7:17)

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Summary 

Vestron Video wins out once again with its Waxwork double feature.  They have a pretty unique idea for the cover art reversible insert that has a solution for double features that is surprising it hasn’t been thought of before.  The presentation of both films is the best these have ever look, my quibbles with the lack of color on the second film aside.  It features a great thorough feature length documentary with some surprising interviews that are woven in.  Another winner for Vestron Video.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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