Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hot Wax Zombies on Wheels (1999)


A body waxing business opens in a seaside California town, run by the evil, cape-wearing Yvonne (Gwen Somers). Apparently, a side effect of the waxing is becoming a mindless, sex-crazed zombie, which starts cutting into the business of lingerie store owner Sharon (Jill Miller) and barbers Mick (Jon Briddell) and Sven (Trevor Lovell). After Mick visits the waxing salon, it's up to Sharon and Sven to travel to Beverly Hills and stop Yvonne's maniacal plot to take over the world (or at least California).


Hot Wax Zombies On Wheels is a pitiful entry into the already bloated horror/comedy field, and will elicit groans from the audience for both the juvenile humour on display (often in the form of wacky sound effects) as well as the technical ineptness that fills every frame. It's the film version of a wacky morning radio show, and the result is simply annoying when it's not flat out boring.

It's difficult to not be hard on a film which obviously had the resources, meager though they appear, to be better than it is. While the acting is amateurish, the production values are fine in a straight-to-video soft-core porn kind of way. It's the lame script and often incomprehensible plot which really drag things down, as well as a director who seems to honestly think fart noises and Bennie Hill-style sped up film are the height of comedy.

On the commentary, Jill Miller mentions a scene where her character is simply having a conversation but appears to be staring into space. She's right to question it, as the choice is both bizarre and distracting and, despite some awkward explanation from director Michael Roush, seems indicitive of the problems with the film as a whole. The best low budget films turn their obvious liabilities into strengths, while this one seems to desperately be trying to convince the audience that obvious errors or weaknesses are on purpose.

It also makes the usual error of spending it's (scant 80 minute) running time winking at the audience in recognition of its badness. From the lurid, drive-in title to the hammy acting from the leads, it's obvious that nobody is meant to take this material seriously, but it serves only to push away those who might be lured in by the title. There are no zombies here, only people wandering around mumbling about getting rid of "pesky body hair". Gore is completely non-existent, and the only real exploitative element is the copious amounts of nudity. However, even that is ineptly included as the director shot most of the scenes after the fact, tacking them in randomly throughout.

Miller gives a competent performance as the lead, and while the execution of the plot is pitiful, there's no doubt that it's at least original. In fact, in more capable hands a similar plot might have been massaged into a decent satirical horror film. The few gags that do work in this film work in spite of the direction, often because of the efforts of an obviously game cast.

The film is presented by Pathfinder Home Entertainment in a perfectly watchable full-screen transfer. Most of the film was shot in a single house, and though the settings are generally bland they look fine on the DVD.

The DVD features a Commentary with director Michael Roush, actress Jill Miller, actress Catherine Brewton, and actor and producer Bill Blum. It's good natured, featuring some fun stories from the cast, but everyone involved seems to be under the impression that the film is better than it actually is. Miller states at one point that she interprets the film as a feminist statement, and I may have missed the last twenty minutes from the constant eye-rolling caused by this remark.

Also included are cast and crew bios, as well as a short photo gallery.

If you're a fan of the genre, you've seen many filmmakers do much better with much less available to them. Hot Wax Zombies On Wheels is not fun, not scary, not entertaining, not gory, and not worth the time of anyone who might think of picking it up based on the title.

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