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Artwork copyright (c) 2005 Warmer Bros. Entertainment, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Predictable but satisfying horror score


A silly horror movie, House of Wax is a remake of the similarly silly 1953 movie.  Still, at least that one starred Vincent Price - this one has Elisha Cuthbert (from 24) and Paris Hilton (from - well, actually I'm not sure what or where she's from).  It features a group of youngsters who, through various contrived plot devices, end up spending time in a waxworks museum in which the waxworks come to life and terrorise them.  I confess to not having seen the film myself, so rather shamelessly my criticism of it stems only from second-hand reports.  Producer Joel Silver's current composer of choice seems to be John Ottman, and it is no doubt through their relationship that the composer ended up scoring House of Wax.  He seems to have spent a fair amount of time in the last few years working on pretty trashy films aimed at teens, with variable (musical) results.  This one is very much towards the top end of that spectrum.  Modern horror scores are much of a muchness really, especially for these increasingly desperate teen ones, and so you pretty much know what to expect; sometimes the composer is able to inject a bit of life into them nonetheless, and fortunately that is the case here. 

The album opens with probably its strongest cue.  "Opening / Tantrum" features some distinctly gothic horror stylings and nice choral effects.  Everything may sound familiar from the countless similar scores over the years, but it's still effective material.  While it's the strongest cue, Ottman doesn't really lose momentum much during the course of the album, with a string of edgy and effective cues of both suspenseful and action-orientated material.  The orchestration is notably stronger than on most Ottman scores, featuring several good effects; the music remains interesting enough to be highly-listenable throughout.  For sure, when it does descend into rather dull "noodling" music which is essentially waiting for something to happen, you get the urge to hit skip, but this doesn't happen too often.  Some of the action music is really rather good, especially the distinctly Goldsmithian brass writing in "Bringing Down the House".  This is boosted further by the unusually dynamic recording, excellent even by the high standards of today.

I have to say that I find Ottman can be a rather frustrating composer.  His best work shows real promise, but the promise just hasn't been fulfilled yet, a decade on from his breakthrough score, The Usual Suspects.  He continues to show flashes of real talent without developing it into any scores which can really be considered excellent from start to end, and sadly it seems that his blandest work is reserved for his most high-profile films (like X-Men 2).  There's no doubt that it only needs some spark of something or other to come from somewhere, to really get him going - let's hope it happens soon.  (I don't suppose, though, that he's too concerned about what I think - the fact he keeps getting hired for big movies would probably be enough indication of what the industry must think of him.)  House of Wax is a pretty impressive score - not one which is going to win any awards or be on anyone's list of favourites from the year, but it's competent stuff which makes for a satisfying album.

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  1. Opening / Tantrum (3:28)
  2. Ritual / Escape from Church (4:15)
  3. Story of the Town (1:39)
  4. Up in Flames (3:42)
  5. They Look So Real (2:16)
  6. Sealed Lips (3:56)
  7. Brotherly Love (2:28)
  8. Hanging with Baby Jane (3:36)
  9. Paris Gets It (3:07)
  10. Curiosity Kills (2:33)
  11. Bringing Down the House (5:08)
  12. Three Sons (2:28)
  13. Endless Service (2:45)