Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wax Mask

                                                                        By MrParka
                “Wax Mask” was due to be Lucio Fulci’s comeback film, produced by Dario Argento with special effects by Sergio Stivaletti. Unfortunately, Fulci died before the film was made and Sergio Stivaletti took over for the maestro. This set of unfortunate circumstances put “Wax Mask” in an unfair disadvantage. Fans were left with a series of questions; If Lucio Fulci had directed, would it be gorier? Would it be more atmospheric? Could “Wax Mask” ever live up to its potential?
                “Wax Mask” opens up in 1900 with a double murder. In true typical Italian horror fashion, our killer is in the shadows, dressed in a black trench coat and hat. But unlike any other Italian killer, ours wields a special weapon; a hand that has been turned into a gnarly mechanical device that punctures chest cavities. 12 years have gone by since these grisly murders and a young man is dared to stay the night in a macabre wax museum with the wax displays representative of murders. The man dies mysteriously and this puts unwanted focus on the museum. Shortly after, a young woman who has recently began work at the museum begins to have violent memories brought on by the visceral displays. These memories are undeniably linked to the tragic murders 12 years ago, the death in the museum, and the new disappearances in town. A curious journalist, a veteran cop, and the troubled employee soon uncover a terrible secret about the wax sculptures and proprietor of the museum.
                “Wax Mask” of course has Italian influences such as Gialli, but pulls from Universal and Hammer films as well. The result of this mish-mash is a film akin to that of “Darkman”, “Waxwork”, and a Gialli all rolled into one. The creative special effect flairs of Sergio Stivaletti really brought a lot of this to life; the animatronics are really fun, even when it goes full “Terminator” during the fiery climax. A vet like Sergio would never disappoint with the bloodshed and this is clear in the opening murder as a severed hand falls to the ground in sloppy detail. Italian horror is known for its creative kills and “Wax Mask” carries on the tradition in a fun scene where a man comes face to face with the killer, who just so happens to be wearing a realistic mask of him. When our victim is dispatched, he reaches for the face of the killer only to pull his own face off and have it land next to his lifeless corpse. The score on the film is standard when compared to its pupils and works well and has a nice effort put forth.  With all this behind the scenes creativity thrust into “Wax Mask” it’s amazing the movie even got made, especially in 1997 when the Italian horror scene was dead.  “Wax Mask” is somewhat muddled down in the middle, we spend too much time with the journalist character figuring out what is happening when it probably was already guessed by the audience. A couple more murders sprinkled in during this investigation would have helped the pacing. Thankfully, the plot points unfold nicely although they aren’t particularly hard to guess.  “Wax Mask” does end on a slight high note leaving this film world open for a sequel.
                 “Wax Mask” ends up coming across pretty decent in the end. A slew of Fulci fans still might think the maestro would have done better, but most fans seem to have a selective memory. To get another “Beyond” or “Zombie” would have been lovely, but highly doubtful. More than likely, it would have been another “Aenigma” or “Murderock”. Again: not a tragedy, but not a masterpiece, either.   

                “Wax Mask” is presented in widescreen and looks solid. You have your choice to watch the film in English or Italian, both in Stereo or Dolby, without the choice of English subtitles. The disc also includes behind the scenes and special effects featurettes in Italian, both without subtitles.

There is a new attraction in town, not for the fainthearted. A wax museum that recreates for the thrills of a paying audience some of the most gruesome murders ever committed by human hands. A young man bets with his friends that he will spend an entire night in the museum but is found dead the morning after. Who is the savage slayer? The police is unable to come up with a reason or a clue to identify the murder. Weirdly enough, the museum starts featuring new murder scenes as the killing spree increases. Maybe that metal-clawed killer that haunted Paris in past years is back, this time prowling on the streets of Rome looking for fresh blood and young flesh.

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