There is a real specific strain of 80s horror that I always attribute to a select shelf of a middle school friend’s vhs collection. It had weirder and frankly goofier movies than the local supermarket bothered to carry. They carried R ratings, but I think we clearly tell that the 18+ set wasn’t the intended audience. They were stupid, and knowingly so. Goofy things with vaudevillian humor that just followed “nyuk nyuk” eye poking to its logical conclusion. It just makes a certain kind of sense to an adolescent brain. These were the immediate descendants of Sam Raimi. Praise be to that friend’s college aged sister in a far away place sending down her schlocky vhs down to her rural little brother and his even more rural little friend. Frankly, don’t think we would have had a laughing fit to House II: The Second Story or Night of the Creeps without the guidance of a higher intelligence.

Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time took me right back to sitting cross legged on that shag carpet in front of a tv that likely was the size of a modern tablet. Which is to say, I had a pretty good time.

I went into these knowing they’d been recommended, but without grasping the premise. I presumed it was the 80s horror take on something like House of Wax. I don’t think I was expecting a mixture of Doctor Who and Quantum Leap with every destination being a horror movie. Which I don’t think I need to gesture any harder at my comic to say that would appeal to me.

That’s a Doctor Who

Waxwork has David Warner as a madman out of time with a wax museum full of the greatest monsters across history. Now it’s no surprise to say these monsters aren’t just wax, but it is some to say they are actually frozen moments accessible from through magical portals across time and space. So not only will you get Dana Ashbrook chased by Jonathan Rhys Davies as a werewolf, you will get it through some hidden European woods. It’s all very convoluted, but the movie knows this. What it really wants to do is shutup and play the hits. In essence it takes every little lord Fauntleroy that composes its teen cast and tosses them each into a different horror movie. All of this framed by events outside the museum that build up the rules of the universe as well as delve into its comically over done lore. It all crescendos into one of the wilder ending set pieces this sillier end of the horror comedy can provide. Its set up is the classic villagers storm the castle, but with the caveat that every single kind of monster is here. It ratchets up the gore and kills but never losing the gonzo tone. At a point it feels almost like the anarchy of the ending of Blazing Saddles where various film sets just fall into the brawl. It also lands a joke that made me laugh harder than anything in the last couple years.

Waxwork II: Lost in Time is a rare sequel in these kind of movies. It not only starts directly after the last scene closes but fully expects you to have seen the first movie. And also unlike genre standards, doesn’t retain its villains for its sequel but its surviving protagonists. Our two leads (one who is Gremlins’ own Zach Galligan) are now thoroughly lost in time. Though conveniently for our purposes only in horror time. Fairly early in it completely ditches the contemporary world narrative to just get to the horror vignettes, and it works like gangbusters. The movie switches gears from setting to setting and just unleashing a manic chaos across them. Everything from a Hammer Horror tinged Frankenstein tale with an especially gruesome comedic end to a take on horror sci-fi with an Alien riff. Though it is never strong than in a black and white haunted house tale. Here they pull in Bruce Campbell, frankly the hero of that prior mention VHS shelf. And if this movie has anything figured out its how to best deploy him. Which of course is a long digression of just throwing things at Bruce Campbell and just watching him react.

A proud film tradition

So while I missed out some by these movies miraculously not being on that vhs shelf, I’m always happy to discover there are still new little corners for me to find.

Also no ranking this entry. I found both charming and a whole lot of fun. Thorough recommendations to both.

Next time I go back to Arkansas and take a stay at Boggy Creek.