Tag Archives: Vestron Pictures

Waxwork (1988, Anthony Hickox), the unrated version

Waxwork has a distressing lack of charm. It ought to have some charm. The first act has its cast of young college students–whose college set seems to be a high school–speaking in some affected pseudo-fifties teen melodrama dialect. It ought to be sostaggeringmewhat charming. It’s not, but it ought to be.

Most of the problem is writer-director Hickox. He doesn’t direct his cast–answering the question, why wasn’t Zach Galligan a bigger star–because without direction, he’s way too slight. Even with an obnoxious, “quirky” character, Galligan makes no good impression. Though his costuming in the second half of the film doesn’t help much.

The first act is all character setup on the And Then There Were None cast. Galligan is a rich kid who speaks in dubitably accurate synonyms–see, quirky–only it stops once he gets to high school. Sorry, college. Michelle Johnson and Deborah Foreman are–inexplicably–friends with Galligan. Johnson’s the one note tramp, Foreman’s the one note virgin. Johnson has just thrown over Galligan for some other guy, which is fine since Johnson and Galligan have no chemistry. No one in Waxwork has much chemistry.

Dana Ashbrook is the last of the main cast members. He’s not good but still somehow likable. He tries with Hickox’s script; no small attempt. He’s just playing some guy who smokes a lot. He’s got no romantic connections or dialogue quirks.

They end up at David Warner’s creepy suburban wax museum for a private midnight show and discover things aren’t what they seem. The exhibits are portals to horrific worlds, leading to an overcooked werewolf–more a were-rabbit–and Miles O’Keeffe’s mind-numbingly atrocious rendition of Count Dracula. At the same time Hickox is flopping with his characters, it’s clear he does have some ideas. O’Keeffe’s Dracula has this terrifying dinner sequence where his victims-to-be have to prove their worth. Until it gets gory, Hickox and editor Christopher Cibelli ratchet up the tension.

Even at Waxwork’s worst, Hickox always manages to get tension. Maybe because the first couple encounters in the wax displays are just unending failures of the victims to escape. If any of Hickox’s scripting or directing ineptitudes came through campy enough, their contrast with the effective tension might be enough to get Waxwork its needed charm. Shame they don’t.

Of course, there’d still be the other problems to surmount. Like Roger Bellon’s score. The overtly melodramatic music–presumably at Hickox’s request–doesn’t match the actors’ performances or Gerry Lively’s pragmatic but flat photography. As a director, Hickox doesn’t have the ingenuity to pull off Waxwork at its budget. His crew displays occasional competence, but they can’t make up for Hickox’s shortcomings.

There are occasionally excellent shots–particularly with Johnson’s trip of terror–with no clear responsible party. Well, not Hickox. He doesn’t recognize their effectiveness, so maybe it was Lively with the photography or even Cibelli with the editing. Those shots only come in the first half. The second half, when its effective, is always through the tension.

Given the bad writing, it’s hard to gauge the performances. Johnson’s the best of the principals. Foreman’s got a weak story arc–involving J. Kenneth Campbell’s pirate version of the Marquis de Sade–but even without, she doesn’t make much impression. She and Galligan are ostensibly in a romance subplot, only with a negative amount of chemistry. Ashbrook does his best with the script; he’s great on his terror trip.

Aside from Miles O’Keeffe, who should be so bad he’s funny (but it doesn’t work out), the worst performance is from Charles McCaughan. He’s a “Miami Vice” attired suburban detective. He’s terrible. It’s not entirely his fault–he’s a clown–but he’s still terrible.

Patrick Macnee shows up in the second half in an ill-advised cameo.

Waxwork ought to be charming. Turns out Hickox’s idea of charming is having a buffoonish Nazi-loving professor. So no charm. And once it becomes clear Hickox’s actual successes with tension aren’t going to add up to anything, Waxwork’s a slow melt through its runtime. Decent effects work though. Shame Lively doesn’t light it better.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Anthony Hickox; director of photography, Gerry Lively; edited by Christopher Cibelli; music by Roger Bellon; production designer, Gianni Quaranta; produced by Staffan Ahrenberg and Eyal Rimmon; released by Vestron Pictures.

Starring Zach Galligan (Mark), Deborah Foreman (Sarah), Michelle Johnson (China), Dana Ashbrook (Tony), David Warner (Waxwork Man), Charles McCaughan (Inspector Roberts), Miles O’Keeffe (Count Dracula), J. Kenneth Campbell (Marquis de Sade), and Patrick Macnee (Sir Wilfred).


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Twister (1989, Michael Almereyda)

Twister tries very hard to be avant-garde, but ends up just being a quirky family comedy. Worse, director Almereyda changes up the narrative style about fifty minutes into the film. Although Twister is based on a novel, Almereyda’s style is more appropriate for stage. The first half or more takes place on one set–Harry Dean Stanton and family’s house–with very long scenes. One can imagine, for long while, Twister on stage.

And Almereyda gives his actors a lot of leeway. Sadly, Crispin Glover uses that leeway to do his persona thing; his scenes are often exasperating. More detrimentally, Suzy Amis doesn’t create a character–some of the fault belongs to Almereyda, whether the script or the direction–but it’s mostly Amis’s fault. Watching Amis and Glover opposite the rest of the cast is often painful. The disconnect is visible.

Almereyda opens up the film in the last third and makes it into that quirky family comedy. He drains the life out of the film, which was at least an interesting project before.

Still, Stanton is fantastic, as are Charlayne Woodard, Dylan McDermott and, especially, Lois Chiles.

The narrative’s big problem is having two entries into the family. McDermott returns, one entry, then Chiles moves in, another. It’s like Almereyda wasn’t paying enough attention to notice.

As Amis and McDermott’s daughter, Lindsay Christman is quite good. Jenny Wright is okay, until she starts doing a Glover impression.

Great Tim Robbins cameo too.

Twister‘s aggravating, but still somewhat interesting.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Almereyda; screenplay by Almereyda, based on a novel by Mary Robison; director of photography, Renato Berta; edited by Roberto Silvi; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, David Wasco; produced by Wieland Schulz-Keil; released by Vestron Pictures.

Starring Dylan McDermott (Chris), Suzy Amis (Maureen), Crispin Glover (Howdy), Lindsay Christman (Violet), Charlayne Woodard (Lola), Harry Dean Stanton (Eugene), Lois Chiles (Virginia), Jenny Wright (Stephanie) and Tim Robbins (Jeff).


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Midnight Crossing (1988, Roger Holzberg)

Midnight Crossing is a terribly written piece of garbage, but there’s some definite potential to it. It takes forever for the potential to show.

The movie opens with one of the worst directed, worst written action sequences I can think of. Then it flashes forward to modern day and it’s bad, but sometimes funny. At this point, Holzberg’s direction isn’t terrible. He’s shooting in Miami and it’s generally pleasant looking. Then he gets on the boat, which should be better, but it isn’t. It’s worse.

The two big problems are the script and Daniel J. Travanti. Wisconsin-born Travanti is playing a redneck and can’t keep his accent. If you’ve ever wanted to see him in a speedo, this movie’s the one for you. It’s shocking he couldn’t find better work after “Hill Street Blues.”

Faye Dunaway, I can sort of understand. She was at the end of her career. She still gives the best performance by far. Even if it’s sometimes silly. She reunites with Network co-star Ned Beatty, who’s laughably awful as an Australian. They must have needed to make house payments.

Kim Cattrall is bad, with flashes of decent acting. She gives the second best performance.

Leading man John Laughlin is affably bad. Sometimes his Southern accent breaks through.

The film ends with a decent thriller sequence, then that interesting final development I mentioned earlier. Sadly, Holzberg didn’t build the film around those elements.

I imagine the production story is more interesting than the picture itself.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Holzberg; screenplay by Holzberg and Douglas Weiser, based on a story by Holzberg; director of photography, Henry Vargas; edited by Earl Watson; music by Paul Buckmaster and Al Gorgoni; production designer, Jose Duarte; produced by Mathew Hayden; released by Vestron Pictures.

Starring John Laughlin (Jeff Schubb), Faye Dunaway (Helen Barton), Daniel J. Travanti (Morely Barton), Kim Cattrall (Alexa Schubb), Pedro De Pool (Captain Mendoza) and Ned Beatty (Ellis).


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