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Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell. Zach Quinto from the recent Star Trek. Zack Ryder, former Bro-ski. Zach Galifianakis from The Hangover. Zack something or other from Zack and Miri Make A Porno. All of these men are but imitators to the one, true Zack/Zach of today’s piece, Zach Galligan!
Does the name ring a slight bell in the back of your head? Well, me too. In fact I sat through all of Hatchet III thinking ‘who is playing that Sheriff?’
My curiosity was sated once I saw the the End Credits. Why, it was Zach Galligan, both a familiar face and a familiar name. One noun will probably erase any nagging- itch on some of your minds as to who Zach Galligan is.
Any one who grew up with the demented joy of Joe Dante’s Gremlins (and massively underrated sequel– will know of Mr. Galligan. He played the frizzy-haired young adult, Billy.
Billy was the lead human in the movie who should have listened to his father’s instructions a little more clearly. After the monumental success of Gremlins, and to a lesser degree it follow up, it seemed as though Mr Galligan had sadlydropped off of the Hollywood radar. Yet he did not drop off of the Cult radar thanks to two little low budget horror films, Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time!
Both films feature Zach playing the role of Mark, a wealthy socialite who feels there is more to life than being a snob. Despite being a Millionaire, Mark attends a local high school for reasons never explained. Maybe they just had a really strong Open Evening one year. He attends school with his girlfriend, the blue collar Sarah. Of course no 1980’s American high school would be complete with a Jock, a tramp and a Wacky best friend, all of whom are peripheral characters to Mark’s lead.
In fact none of these supporting roles are really worth naming, although I will note that his Best Friend is played by Twin Peaks actor Dana ‘Bobby Briggs’ Ashbrook, and the slutty character is named China. Not Chyna the former wrestler or 80’s Action Kung-Fu character China O’Brian, just regular old China. Actress Michelle Johnson is perfectly average as China, but now that entire role seems very disappointing given those two alternative casting options…
At any rate, of course a film named Waxwork would not be complete without waxworks. In this case, killer waxworks. And naturally, any killer Waxwork exhibits just would not have the same presence without a brutish giant, a German midget and David Warner. So it’s a damn good thing that in this film David Warner runs the local Waxwork Museum with a German midget and a brutish giant!
Film fans may well recall David Warner from his well known turns as a bad guy in Titanic, Time After Time, Tron or Time Bandits. In fact if it is a film beginning with ‘T’ and David Warner crops up then place your bets on him being pure evil.
In Waxwork, Warner is using pieces of ‘History’s Most Evil 20 Killers!’ (that somehow include a Werewolf and the Maquis De Sade, but ignore Dictators) that Warner has mixed into his Wax figurines. All he needs is 20 victims to be killed, one per exhibit, to bring about more evil. Given his goal is to use evil to cause more evil, I can only imagine that ‘Evil’ is pretty addictive. Like Pringles.
Standing opposed to Warner is a cinematic icon of slightly lesser value; Patrick Macnee of TV’s The Avengers and an Oasis video. Hamming it up a plenty, Macnee plays Sir Wilfred, a wealthy relative of Zach Galligan’s Mark.
Sir Wilfred is a part of a sort of supernatural vigilante squad who have been on the lookout for Warner and his evil ways. Now with an end game in sight, they decide to fight once and for all. Incidentally the rest of Macnee’s squad seems to be made up of pensioner aged British folks who brandish pitchforks and torches. Apparently nobody fights evil like the British country-folk!
Aside from the somewhat loopy premise and genre casting, Waxwork remains a fairly fun watch. The main reason for this is it clearly made by horror-film fans. The set up of possessed Waxwork models allows for throwbacks to all manner of other films. Once a victim is lured into ‘the display piece’ of the Wax figures, the victims are then transported to another dimension where the exhibits are real.
This allows for the film to feature a Werewolf in a cabin scene starring Jonathan Rhys Davis, who would go on to do a bit better in the Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings series, a gothic Dracula scene set in a castle and even a Night Of The Living Dead scene shot in black and white!
Throughout Waxwork these cinematic allusions populate the film. Amongst the more obvious are references to a Mummy’s Curse, The Invisible Man, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (mixed with Little Shop of Horrors), The Phantom Of The Opera, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, a Golem and even a little Evil Dead 2. There are undoubtedly many more past films and books paid homage to, but for a low budget flick like Waxwork that is still an impressive number to shoehorn in.
The real ‘horror’ of the film though is its depiction of Sarah. Her scenes set in the Marquis De Sade’s realm are… questionably chauvinistic… or defiantly feminist, depending on how you view them. Sarah’s pleasure at her own kidnapping and torture is either down to badly written female roles or is displaying a greater sexual complexity than is often depicted in films by presenting Sarah as dominantly knowing that she likes to be dominated in painful ways.
Personally, I’m leading more towards the former since unfortunately Sarah really has no character to speak of throughout the film, but she suddenly sure does seem to love a whippin’!
The film as a whole has a strangely-off pace. Scenes like the vampire sequence seem to drag on quite slowly, whilst the Werewolf attack and the end fight are much quicker experiences. Despite any pacing issues though, the cast give the film a camp sense of glee that keep it watchable. Warner and Macnee come across as lower rent versions of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and the man of the hour Zach Galligan seems to relish going over the top in certain line deliveries.
However, no mention of Waxwork would be fair without a moment dedicated to… WAXWORK II: Lost in Time!
These two films actually play surprisingly well together, no doubt owing to some shared cast and the same Writer-Director, Anthony ‘Hellraiser III’ Hickox. Once again Zach Galligan returned to the role of Mark, and once more he seems to enjoy unfurling some manic energy at the ludicrous dialogue.
From a plot sense, the twist this time around is that the Waxworks are no more. Instead, Mark and Sarah now travel through time and space as they seek evidence that the supernatural exists. Arguably even the fact the movie is called ‘Waxwork’ is a bit off since the sole Wax figure is a dismembered hand. But then again The Unbearable Lightness of Being did not feature any scales, so I’ll let it go.
What is more interesting about the Waxwork II than the title is that the film makers do not use it as an excuse to revisit famous horror genres as they did previously. Instead, they now use it to parody particular films! The highlights of which include…
– Bruce Campbell’s slapstick in a version of The Haunting!
– Martin Kemp as Dr. Frankenstein!
– The cheapest rip off of Alien known to man!
– A sword fight that crosses dimensions between certain types of well known zombies in a shopping mall all the way to a Godzilla attacked Tokyo!
– David Carradine appearing for no real reason!
– A terrible rap over the end credits just like in The Monster Squad or Maniac Cop 2!
All in all, Waxwork II: Lost In Time is actually a lot zippier than the first film. Oddly, I would not recommend either one over the other, though. They are both of the same tone and made with the same budget that is akin to an average school dinner. Neither Waxwork movie is genuinely funny enough to be an endlessly watchable cult classic, but unfortunately neither is horrific enough to be even remotely scary, either. Yet this is not an attack on the films. Not every low budget horror comedy is going to be outstanding.
It should be stated that both films remain perfectly watchable entertainment. They are both disposable films with ideas high above their budgets, with fun ideas but average scripts . They are also both movies that the production designers give a good shot at pulling off.
In both instance the casting is mixed. Zach plays his part with a twinkle in his eye despite Mark being fairly plain. Most of the leads around Galligan are earnest and dull in equal measure, whilst the highlights are really the mass of cameo-ing legends collectively chewing on more scenery than a hungry hobo.
Of course the fun of spotting genre actors enjoying themselves in both of the Waxwork movies seems all the more fitting since it was Zach Galligan’s fun appearance in Hatchet III that led to this entire piece.
Furthermore, like real any Waxwork museums, the ideas of entertainment on display may seem dated, and the novelty of the experience may soon wear off, but there is indeed some good, innocent fun to be had with something lovingly crafted.
Next time , the Gingers fight back!
Thanks for reading,