Friday, July 3, 2015

Rare Flix: The Wax Mask (1997)

Oh what could have been.  Today's Film is The Wax Mask, a 1997 Film that was nearly much more memorable.  In 1996, plans were made for the two biggest living Italian Horror Directors to work together- Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci.  An earlier attempt at this- with Argento and Mario Bava- gave us Inferno, so fans were optimistic.  I actually got to see this intrigue, thanks to a Clip featured as an Extra on Cat in the Brain- which was better than the Film, really.  Sadly, reality came calling in a bleak way and Fulci died in the same year, mere weeks before Production!  As I've discussed before, Fulci died from not taking his Insulin one night before he went to bed.  Much like Heath Ledger's tragic death, you can interpret it as an accident or suicide.  I can't speak to it either way.  With everything ready to go, Argento stayed on to Produce the Film and a first-time Director stepped up.  It was another 7 years before he stepped up again, so make of that what you will.  The Story is loosely-based on a French Tale, while also being similar to a series of Films like House of Wax.  Being related to Argento, this one gets a little bit crazy and unexpected.  The only Print I could find easily was Dubbed (boo), had burned in Swedish Subtitles and was a bit out-of-sync with the Audio.  Even so, let me tell you all about it...
In the early 1900s, a crazed killer takes out a girl's father and leaves a grizzly crime scene.  He isn't caught.
Over a Decade later, this man dies of fright in a Wax Museum the day before our heroine- the girl who survived the beginning- goes to work there.
The mysterious killer is on another spree, first killing this kid after injecting him with some liquid.
A Reporter starts covering the Museum after the death and ends up working with our heroine and trying to be more than friends.

Gotta love Burned-In Subtitles, right?
He later captures a Hooker and she wakes up in a Lab.  He poses her in this metal rigging and then does some strange science to turn her into living Wax (I think)!  He puts fake eyes over her own moving ones and she joins the Museum!
In a Flashback/Dream, we learn that our heroine was traumatized by a strange man...in a riff on the ending of House of Wax.

This time, he's burned by the Vat he falls into and is pushed there by Italian Charles Buchinsky/Bronson.  Odd.
Both her and the Reporter figure out the secret, but the former is captured and set up for an Exhibit.
He saves her and the Villain ends up on fire- naturally.  It doesn't end there, however, as the 'skin' melts away and...
this happens.

I can't explain it (a Terminator?), but there you go.  The End.
That got weird!  To be honest, this one is kind of a glorious mess.  It has some really simple elements- mysterious killer, Wax Museum-, strikes some familiar notes- heroine haunted by trauma-, and then goes off the rails to somehow include a Robot (or two!).  How did...what in the...I don't...yeah, this is odd.  I like the Period Design of things and the Effects are pretty damn good.  You at least hope for the latter when a Special Effects Man makes a Film (like Tragic Ceremony).  As a Film full of bizarre spectacle, it certainly delivers!  Mad Science, Murder and Make-Up!  Where it doesn't quite deliver is on giving us a coherent Narrative.  There is enough Story there to follow, but it does that lazy trick of just Exposition Dumping at certain points to skip ahead.  We suddenly see the Dream/Flashback bit and learn the context of it in the very next Scene.  I can  piece it all together, but not as easily as I should be able to.  Obviously, the stuff at the End is just beyond rational explanation.  Need I say anymore?  If you like Italian Horror and haven't seen this curious Film, it is worth a look.  It isn't great, but it is greatly-bizarre!  To give me one hour Terminator comparison, here we go...
Next up, I celebrate July 4th with a Film that fits.  It is all about our Marines...or, rather, one Marine.  Stay tuned...

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