(Sergio Stivaletti, 1997)
This turn of the century period horror opens with the brutal murder of an Italian couple, living in Paris, by a metal-clawed madman who tears out their hearts. Unknown to the beast is that their daughter Sonia, hidden beneath their bed, is alive and the sole witness to the carnage.
Years later, in Rome, Sonia becomes employed as costume designer in a new wax museum opened by artistic genius Boris Volkoff. There she meets photographer Andrea, who's drawn to the museum and it's eerily life-like collection of wax automatons, after a man, dead of fright (in an obvious homage to Tourneur's "Figures De Cire/ The Man With Wax Faces"), is found there. As more of the locals begin to disappear, Andrea and Sonia begin to suspect that there may be more to the wax figures' realism than meets the eye.
Producer Dario Argento originally intended to give the director's seat to Lucio Fulci, who co-wrote the story with Daniele Stroppa and Argento himself, but Fulci's untimely death prior to filming left the direction to special effects wiz Sergio Stivaletti. One would think, from watching The Wax Mask, that Dario had directed this himself. Stivaletti emulates (successfully, I might add) Argento, but the film moves more quickly than most of the maestro's work. The story's basically an ode to the house of wax films of yore, with a little giallo thrown in. Nothing new, but it is a stylish, visually pleasing film.
Argento's use of colour and lighting give TWM a touch of retro appeal and a heap of horrific atmosphere. His fetishistic images of gloved hands, bondage, needles, broken glass, and water are also inserted lovingly, once again leaving the impression that Dario was at the helm. The acting's not all that bad, though, as usual, the overdubbing is somewhat cheesy. It's a pity Fulci didn't live to direct, as his visual style mixed with Argento's might have produced something magical. The fact that the two were finally collaborating makes it all the more tragic. Still, it's a decent twist on an old story, and a fun watch.
8 months ago