Cutie Zach Galligan charmed us as the boy next door in Gremlins, and for the next decade, he remained a favorite horror hero as he alternated between Gremlins films and Waxwork films. So it’s time to look back at the Waxwork movies, as well as two horror thrillers Zach starred in during the 1990s.
Back when I worked in the video store in the late 80s, Waxwork was the shit! It’s still all kinds of fun nearly 30 years later. Combining modern (aka: 80s) horror sensibilities with nods to monster classics, it’s pretty much a funhouse of horror. Actually, it’s a house of wax of horror.
Zach, 80s sweetheart Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl, April Fool’s Day, Destroyer), and their friends go to a wax museum that opens in the middle of their upper class, suburban neighborhood. Within no time, we learn that visitors can actually step into the displays, which makes for a whole lot of different horror scenarios. Waxwork is literally a horror collage film. There’s:
- A werewolf scene, of The Howling variety.
- A gory vampire scene.
- A mummy scenario.
- A Night of the Living Dead homage in black and white.
- A Marquis de Sade climax, so to speak.
It’s 80s midnight movie fun from beginning to end, with plenty of familiar horror faces, a big monster battle finale, and…a hand that gets away in the final frame!
A trivial fact: oddly, the song chosen for the closing credits is the pop hit “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore.
WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME (1991)
How the turn of a decade can make all the difference in a franchise. Waxwork II is such a sign of the 90s, with a cheesy plot and bad slapstick humor. Even so, it’s still a worthy sequel that could have been made better if it had been shaved by about 15 minutes. Not to mention, despite being more comedy than the first film, this one actually has a much better horror score, reminiscent of the Phantasm soundtrack.
Beginning with perfect continuity, the hand from the end of the first movie hops in the taxi Zach and his lady friend hail after escaping the wax museum. Problem is…Deborah Foreman passed on returning, so some other chick (who looks like Lori Singer) has taken her place.
She is also suddenly from a white trash background; Zach drops her off at her rundown home and her slovenly father harasses her before the hand shows up and does him in.
Now, the faux Deborah Foreman is on trial for murder (WTF?), and her lawyer is Juliet Mills of Beyond The Door. But Zach has a plan to prove her innocence…the pair goes through a looking glass (Alice references firmly in place) to other dimensions to prove the killer wax museum is real. Yeah, the plot is that bad. However, the results are the same – numerous horror scenarios:
- Chained beast in a basement.
- An Alien spaceship monster.
- A haunted castle.
- A Dawn of the Dead mall scene mashed up with Saturday Night Fever.
- Nosferatu in black and white, with a fleeting cameo by Drew Barrymore!
The film is loaded with familiar faces, including Maxwell Caulfield still looking studly a decade after Grease 2, Martin Kemp of 80s new wave band Spandau Ballet, and Bruce Campbell doing horror comedy as only Bruce can.
The pacing would be fine if it weren’t for the grueling medieval castle plot that takes up the bulk of the film. It’s so fricking boring, even with Michael des Barres (Ghoulies) as the king’s sort of drag queen henchman.
Seriously, the period piece (not surprisingly) just kills this film for me. 15 minutes needed to go from this segment to bring the film to a perfect 90-minute length.
On the bright side, the closing credits feature a rap video, the highlight of which is the cast dancing to the song during various scenes from the film. Watching Zach masterfully move those hips, I’d say he missed his calling. He should totally be in one of the Magic Mike movies.
10 years after cashing in on the holiday slasher craze with My Bloody Valentine, director George Mihalka tapped into a new craze—direct-to-video thrillers born of the psycho killer genre. Essentially, Psychic is Eyes of Laura Mars without a surprise twist; we basically know who the killer is for the entire film.
Zach plays a college kid who has visions of women being murdered. This means opening the film with a traditional late 80s/early 90s sadomasochistic sex scene turned death scene. Those were the days.
For the most part, that is the highlight kill. This is murder-lite, for the film focuses on Zach beginning a relationship with his college teacher, played by Catherine Mary Stewart of Night of the Comet. At the same time, she’s dating an older college professor, played by 1980s leading man Michael Nouri (Flashdance, The Hidden).
So…Zach knows who the killer is, can’t convince police he’s a psychic, tries to warn strange women they’re about to die, becomes a prime suspect, and has to save Catherine Mary Stewart from the actual killer in the final suspense scene. It’s pretty much all paint-by-numbers with no surprises.
Zach does Valentine’s horror, and it’s not from the director of My Bloody Valentine! Actually, Cupid is more like a thriller that you might rent in the 1990s on VHS only after you’d already seen everything else (Fear, Single White Female, The Crush, Poison Ivy, etc.). It’s as formulaic and predictable as they get.
Hellraiser main girl Ashley Laurence works at a bookstore, where she meets Zach, who is as fascinated by the mythology of Cupid & Psyche as she is. As their romance grows, Ashley must contend with her jealous ex-boyfriend, not to mention the fact that people in her life start dying off. More like, person in her life dies off. Really, aside from Zach being a psycho stalker and having a history of incest with his sister (played by Mary Crosby of Dallas fame), he barely kills anyone. He just dates the woman he’s stalking.
Naturally, one person uncovers the truth about his past stay at the “Smith Grove” crazy house (Hallo-wink wink). And, as happens in all your run-of-the-mill thrillers of the 90s, rather than go to the police, that person confronts the psycho and threatens to expose him. We always know how that works out.
Eventually, Zach and Ashley have a Valentine’s dinner, which is when Ashley finally sees just how “lovesick” he is.
You know the rest. Chase scene, the near rescue by a well-meaning but inevitably stupid person, more chase, and the last second takedown of the psycho. Yawn.