I love the usage of the word “over” as a prefix. Overran, overview, overheard, and the list goes on and on. If I had to sum up the 1988 classic, Waxwork, in one word, overacted comes to mind without overreaching. In live theater, overacting is an age-old technique used by thespians to communicate emotion to the masses that are seated 30, 40, even 50 yards from the stage. It make sense. However, when a camera is stationed at arm’s length from an actor, overacting is something akin to a close-talker standing almost nose-to-nose with you while you inhale what they had for lunch as they flap their Burger King stained gums. But much like in the open-air amphitheaters of old, when done in the right place with the right atmosphere, overacting can be a performance one can overindulge in. Such is the case in this waxy work of art.
Waxwork begins with Zach Galligan (Mark Loftmore of Gremlins fame), an uncharacteristically wealthy suburbanite college student with a penchant for nicotine and tobacco. Marks biggest worries include Mummy-dearest not allowing him to slug down coffee in the morning, a Gestapo-like World History professor, and the douche bag Quarterback his former girlfriend, China (Michelle Johnson), is currently banging. It all seems like a a borrowed book from a day-time TV soap opera, that is, until a strange waxwork museum manifests itself smack-dab in the middle of Zach’s picture perfect suburbia. The mysterious waxwork curator, David Lincoln (Time Bandits), pictured above as Willy Wonka’s illegitimate brother, entices China and the lovably overlooked Sarah (Deborah Foreman) to a private showing of his macabre wax statues on the condition that they bring their friends along. The waxwork itself turns out to be a giant homage to iconic horror story villains with an unrivaled life-like quality about each scene depicted. When the first of Zach’s friends is transported inside of one of the scenes to face the horror within it, this candelabra of a story melts into a gory mash-up of just about every noteworthy creeper and creature that could possibly be crammed into a 95 minute movie.
Waxwork is expertly sculpted with a delicate hand of humor and horror. As with many films of that era, the dialogue and delivery can be a bit over the top for some, but a welcomed trip down memory lane for others. A good helping of the special effects and monster makeup are incredible for the sheer fact of how labor intensive it must have been to create, even if the werewolf’s ears did look like a raggedly retarded bunny rabbit. As overzealous as it may seem to try to include every overgrown monster ever created, Waxwork almost overloads our eyeballs with everything we hold dear in this genre in one sitting.