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House of Wax Reviews

Six forgettable young people on a weekend road trip take a detour into — cue the sinister laugh, please — madness and murder in this in-name-only gloss on the 3-D Vincent Price romp, itself a remake of 1933's MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM. Following a '70s-set prologue establishing the existence of a pair of brothers — one good, one bad — and a mom with an interest in wax likenesses, the movie cuts to the present and introduces the moving targets. Though distinguishing characteristics are unnecessary to their story function — acting like blank-faced dummies until they're transformed into the real thing — twin screenwriters Chad and Carey W. Hayes provide the victims-to-be with thumbnail backstories. Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) is about to take an internship in New York, leaving behind her small-town boyfriend, Wade (Jared Padalecki). Her brother, Nick (Chad Michael Murray, of TV's One Tree Hill), is mad at the world and fresh out of jail; their once-close relationship has been damaged by years of parental comparisons that inevitably favored Carly. Shallow nitwit Paige (Paris Hilton), her colorless boyfriend, Blake (Robert Ri'chard), and Nick's loser buddy (Jon Abrahams) round out the ill-fated group. After spending a spooky night camping in the woods, Wade finds his car mysteriously sabotaged; while the others go on in Blake's car, Nick and Carly reluctantly accept a lift from an inbred-looking local to the gas station in Ambrose, some 20 miles down the road. The eerily deserted Ambrose is home to a dusty wax museum — which not only displays creepy-looking wax figures, but is itself actually made of wax — and a lunatic who cruelly coats living victims with wax and adds them to his collection. Wade vanishes after a visit to the home of apparently friendly gas-station owner Bo Sinclair (Brian Van Holt), leaving Carly to summon the rest of her friends to their doom. Shot in the same palette of dingy yellow, grayish green and muddy black that defined the successful remakes of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) and THE RING (2002), first-time feature director Juame Collet-Serra's exercise in horror moviemaking by the numbers bears more than a passing resemblance to the obscure cult item TOURIST TRAP (1979). It delivers some bracingly nasty gore scenes, but there's no spark left in the run-scream-repeat formula, and a movie whose biggest draw is profoundly untalented hotel-fortune heiress Paris Hilton is in desperate need of some juice.