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Dr. Frankenstein's Wax Museum of the Hungry Dead (2013)

 -  Horror  -  23 March 2013 (USA)
7.4
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Title: Dr. Frankenstein's Wax Museum of the Hungry Dead (2013)

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Ashley's Father
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Alex DiVincenzo ...
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Vermin
Christopher L. Ferreira ...
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Mary Paolino ...
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23 March 2013 (USA)  »

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$20,000 (estimated)
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User Reviews

 
Jesús Franco would be proud!
31 March 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Except for the absence of female nudity of course.

As a director, Richard Griffin has made a name for himself (primarily working in the horror genre) with 13 feature films to his credit. The majority of these films have been made under his production company Scorpio Film Releasing beginning circa 2004 (yes, before Tarantino & co. seemingly began (or at least popularized) the whole resurgence of modern-day exploitation cinema with movies like GRINDHOUSE, and contributed to the over-saturation of mostly shoddy, amateur, direct-to-video genre films). Over the years, Griffin has amassed a (almost seemingly close-knit family type) pool of talented New England actors and crew and shows no sign of decreasing his immense productivity (I don't think I can even count the number of films that he currently has in development). That said, (having seen most of the director's filmography), it looks as if Griffin has more than graduated from the (likely even cheaper than his current output) shoe-string budgeted (both in production and aesthetics) movies he began his film career with that overall, had more of a home-made feel to them. However, starting with 2011's EXHUMED, Griffin seems to have reached a new level by producing films that transcend their meager budgets and easily stand on their own as quality examples of contemporary genre cinema. With EXHUMED, MURDER UNIVERSITY, and now, DR. FRANKENSTEIN'S WAX MUSEUM OF THE HUNGRY DEAD, Griffin has achieved an early-Walter Hill like streak by making three solid, quality, and highly entertaining films in a row! When it comes to DR. FRANKENSTEIN'S WAX MUSEUM OF THE HUNGRY DEAD, Griffin clearly pays homage to the many vintage B-movie horror and monster films he most definitely loves and grew up with. Now I know what you're thinking, do we really need another Frankenstein movie or a horror flick set in a wax museum (given the three versions of HOUSE OF WAX, among others)? Well to say the least, this movie does not play out in the most typical manner. Heck, the Wax Museum is more of a McGuffin than something as clichéd as a place for the villain to showcase dead victims preserved as statues (though the film does make use of the Scooby-Doo like, character hiding by being mistaken for statue gag). Instead, the wax museum locale (shot on location at Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery in Salem, MA) just provides for a really interesting and atmospheric location (if this movie doesn't get you to want to visit Count Orlok's, then I don't know what will!) that Dr.Frankenstein (Michael Thurber), can use as a front for his mad scientist, corpse re-animating activities. Sure, the movie is still somewhat formulaic and derivative (intentionally being a certain 'type' of horror flick and sort of a "movie about movies" in general), but the film has more in common with Griffin's previous MURDER UNIVERSITY than it does with say, 30s Universal Monster movies or British Hammer horror flicks.

Like MURDER UNIVERSITY, the movie centers around a group of young people (high-school teenagers this time around) who become caught-up in a labyrinth of murders and mayhem. Unlike MURDER UNIVERSITY, the majority of the protagonists are hugely unlikable (almost the horror equivalent of the spoiled rich kids in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) and (with the exception of the sympathetic characters of Jamie Lyn Bagley's nerd-girl character Katherine and her love interest (or heck, even Sean Carufel's character, the snarky talking-head on a petri dish named Fritz)) so (along with the added fact that the movie plays like a dark-comedy anyway), the depraved youngsters (yes, anyone who doesn't care to learn about the history of classic Hammer horror films or hasn't even seen Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO deserves some form of punishment, at least by this film-geek's standards :) ) makes the audience delight in (and anxiously anticipate in) witnessing the main characters inevitable and brutal demises.

On a technical level, the movie has good production values (especially for being micro-budget), is well shot, and features some good over-the-top and comedic performances from pretty much all involved in the cast. Naturally, Michael Thurber (complete with eye-patch, toupee, and over-the-top German accent) stands out in the titular role and provides somewhat of a new and fresh take on the Dr. Frankenstein persona. Hell, to be honest, the guy has so much charisma in all the many different film roles I've seen him play that I wouldn't mind (as seems to be the case anyway) if he appears in every subsequent Richard Griffin film. Furthermore, the film's Timothy Fife/Lang-Grannan music score is pitch-perfect and sets the tone and atmosphere perfectly in all its 1980s, synthy, John Carpenter and Goblin-esque glory (In fact, the opening theme is so memorable that it brings to mind the iconic theme songs from THE EXORCIST and HALLOWEEN, and I don't think that's an overstatement on my part). Moreover (like MURDER UNIVERSITY) the movie has very much a cool retro, 1980s vibe as a whole (and despite the faux back story that played immediately preceding the film at the premiere, the time-frame is much more loose so I won't get all anal-retentive history geek about all the anachronisms) and comes complete with everything from hideous wardrobes to Duran Duran posters and the use of cassette tapes. If I really had to point out flaws in the movie it would be (as a huge fan of practical special effects) the obvious (yet minimal) uses of CGI for some of the blood-splatter. However, given the fact that the film doesn't really take itself seriously (the blood and gore being of course cartoony on purpose), it doesn't really detract from the film or anything. All in all, DR. FRANKENSTEIN'S WAX MUSEUM OF THE HUNGRY DEAD is a fine achievement in low-budget horror film-making and is entertaining on so many levels. Recommended.


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