At one time the Italian film industry could go toe to toe with any other country producing cinema. Some of the greatest films in cinema history were made there. Later, Italy began churning out stylish, shocking, and unique films that cult movie fans devoured by the bushel. Dario Argento is one such creator of stylish cinema that horror fans especially, couldn’t get enough of. Then the industry took a nose dive in the late 80s and hasn’t recovered since. No more schlocky gore fests, no more stylish crime and gialli, no more world beating art cinema. Of course there are exceptions to this rule so I figured that Wax Mask, produced by Dario Argento, would be one.
Wax Mask was originally to be directed by the godfather of gore Lucio Fulci (of course he did all types of films but is most remembered for his horror offerings), but he passed away before he got the chance. Instead Sergio Stivaletti took the director’s chair after doing special effects on movies like Demons, Hands of Steel, Opera, and The Church. The film takes place at the turn of the last century. A new waxwork has opened in town and suddenly residents start dying in mysterious ways. So it’s up to a local news man to find out exactly what is going on and who the killer is.
Sounds like a decent setup, if cliche right? It’s got Argento’s name on it and the director did special effects so one would expect the film to be 1) stylish 2) gory. Though the movie has it’s moments for the most part I felt it was lacking in both departments. There are great flourishes of style and few very graphic scenes but neither were enough to satisfy me. Full disclosure: films that take place during the early 1900s do nothing for me. I don’t care about top hats, horses, or lady’s in hoop skirts. So the setting of the film is one that was tailor made to have little appeal to me to begin with. But for you, dear reader, you may be fascinated by this time and so might find more to enjoy about the film. The movie features a modest amount of nudity in it but not enough to interest sleaze hounds. In fact there is one bit of nudity in the film that i felt was totally not ok. We see the corpse of a 13 year old girl topless on a slab in a coroners office. It seems like that wouldn’t be legal and i really could have done without it.
For me Wax Mask is predictable, cliche, and not terribly interesting. The Blu looks pretty good but again this was filmed in ’97 in Italy so even on Blu it isn’t going to look spectacular, budgets as they were back then. In fact the film has a very made-for-TV vibe to it, albeit a television station that was ok with nudity and gore. The dvd comes with both English and Italian audio but for some reason there are no English subtitles for the Italian track. So if you aren’t fluent, you’re stuck with the English dub which isn’t great.
I appreciate the fact that this film has been released on Blu. For Eurohorr fans and Argento completists, it’s probably fantastic to finally have it readily available. For casual fans, there are many other films worth checking out before you get to this one. For me, Wax Mask is a very minor film in the Eurohorror filmography.