Waxwork Wears Its 80s Bonafides On Its Sleeve, For Better and Worse

By the end of the 1980s, the best days of the slasher movie were in the rearview mirror. The Friday the 13th series was long in the tooth, and A Nightmare on Elm Street wasn’t far behind. In general, horror was hitting a lull by the end of the decade. But the straight-to-video market allowed a lot of B-movie horror franchises, like Children of the Corn and Puppet Master, to thrive. Maybe it’s not technically a straight-to-video horror movie, Waxwork gained its cult status from its distinct VHS cover art. It’s unique premise mixed with 80s horror excesses were a bit dated by the time of its release. Nevertheless, Waxwork found an audience on video and, despite a lackluster sequel, it still retains a loyal fanbase.


In a small, sleepy college town, a mysterious wax museum opens its doors to the townspeople. When a group of bored college students decide to pay the museum a visit, only a handful ever leave the premises. Soon one of the students suspects that something isn’t quite right with the museum’s gruesome waxworks.

Waxwork Offers Some Fun Homages to Past Horror Genres, But Not Much Else

Over the course of its roughly 90 minute runtime, Waxwork plays out like two different movies stitched together. On one hand, writer and director Anthony Hickox (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth) crafts an effective homage to several different horror movie styles. Consider this horror-comedy to be something of an R-rated takes on The Monster Squad. When Hickox takes audiences into parallel dimension that riff on The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and Night of the Living Dead, Waxwork fires on some pretty fun cylinders. And the Marquis de Sade and Dracula scenes feel like modern updates on Hammer Horror classics. What’s surprising – or maybe not – is the gore that accompanies these homages. There’s nothing here that’s too shocking. Still there’s something about watching The Mummy crush someone’s head with their foot.

On one hand, writer and director Anthony Hickox (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth) crafts an effective homage to several different horror movie styles.

However, on the flip side, Waxwork is clearly an 80s movie that recycles what were some pretty tired tropes by the decade’s end. Though it’s credited as a mix of horror and comedy, there isn’t much in the way of actual comedy. Instead, Hickox blends in bits of 80s teen comedy without the sex that defined movies like Porky’s. There’s a handful of sultry moments blended into the ‘parallel dimensions’ of the museum. Outside the museum, however, Waxwork drags with uninteresting college-aged characters who indulge in the worst cartoonish aspects of 80s storytelling. All of the scenes featuring homicide detectives feel like a strained version of The Naked Gun. And the finale feels too silly for what proceeded it.

Waxwork Doubles Down on Its 80s Credentials With Its Cast

Plenty of familiar faces – and 80s character tropes – turn up in Waxwork. Gremlins fans rejoice, Zach Galligan (Hatchet III) takes the lead role as spoiled rich college student, Mark Loftmore. Though Galligan is fine in the role, only the 80s would think audiences would want to care for a pouty, rich college kid. In fact, Waxwork lacks for any really compelling characters outside of the wax ghouls and assorted villains. Another 80s horror alum, Deborah Foreman (April Fool’s Day), finds herself saddled with the kind of unrewarding role reserved for a lot of young actresses at that time. For the most part, she’s little more than just an object of affection for Galligan’s character.

Though Galligan is fine in the role, only the 80s would think audiences would want to care for a pouty, rich college kid.

Like a lot of 80s horror movies, the villains are far more compelling here. Veteran British actor David Warner (The Omen, Time Bandits) brings a much needed bit of class and dry humor to his role. Waxwork is credited as a mix of horror and comedy, and the best bits of comedy come from Warner. While it’s always nice to see Patrick Macnee (The Howling), he’s largely on hand to deliver a big helping of expository dialogue. And he’s wasted in the movie’s silly, over-the-top finale. In addition to Warner’s villainous museum curator, Michu Meszaros adds a distinct visual cue to the movie. Another 80s favourite, John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark) turns up in a fun werewolf bit.

Waxwork is a Very 80s Horror Movie, For Better and Worse

It’s hard to imagine a more quintessential late 80s horror movie than Waxwork. From the gore, ridiculous plotting and fashion, often gratuitous nudity and sex, and the cast itself, this is something of a time capsule for the decade. Neither bad nor particularly good, this is a hit-or-miss effort. When Hickox takes us into the museum and delivers homages to classic monster movie scenarios, Waxwork is often plenty of bloody fun. But any time the movie focuses on its characters or its general story, it’s tedious and silly in an unfunny way. And the finale is almost unintentionally funny, which may elevate this horror movie for some audiences. Yet it’s still a fun bit of 80s horror cheese.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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