Melting Hot Subtext in “House of Wax”

The House of Wax literally starts melting as soon as twins siblings (Carly and Nick) enter it. image

The plot is as follows. Six young folks get stranded near a strange wax museum in Ambrose on their way to a football game, and in the midst of their own melodramas, they must fight to survive and keep from becoming the next exhibit! image

Paris Hilton is Paige, who is keeping a secret from her boyfriend, Blake (Robert Ri’chard). The fact that Paris Hilton was cast actually makes perfect sense for the film, and it is also neat and scary that she really does have a wax statue in real life, lol! Elisha Cuthbert is Carly, the subject of a three-way rivalry among her dreamboat boyfriend, Wade (Jared Padalecki from Supernatural); a dispensable doofus in a baseball cap named Dalton (Jon Abrahams); and her twin brother, Nick (Chad Michael Murray), who has just finished a spell in jail for auto theft. image

Carly and Nick’s contrasting temperaments – he sardonically refers to himself as “the evil twin” – mirror the sibling dynamic of the killers, providing House of Wax with hints of a psychological, sexual and incestuous subtext. Contains Spoilers I remember watching this movie when it first came out and it really left an impression on my brain! I always remembered Jared Padalecki’s character (Wade) getting the hot wax pored on him and then his friend sticking his finger in the side of his newly waxed face! Gross!  image

When I re-watched it last year, thanks to my friend Astrid’s awesome article, I noticed how much incestuous subtext there actually was in the film. I re-watched it again today (because I got a couple messages about it, so now that is three times!) and I still think the incestuous flame is burning pretty hot! On top of the subtext, the sexual chemistry just oozed out of Chad Michael Murray and Elisha Cuthbert on screen (which obviously adds fuel to the fire). image

I don’t think I noticed this stuff in my first viewing, back in 2005. I also don’t think I realized they were brother and sister, or even twins – well it is only mentioned a few times! I think I thought they were just switching partners! So obviously they come off more as a couple then siblings.


I loved the whole twin aspect of the film. It revolves around two sets of twins. Not only Carly and Nick, but also male murderous twins who used to be conjoined. It is also such a clever plot devise as there is this dichotomy of the good and evil twin at play in the film between both sets of twins. image

In the bigger scope, there is a parallel of the twins coming back together, reuniting. Doubling the delight is that the screenplay was also written by twin brothers, Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes! Pretty cool! There is a lot at play in the script with togetherness and separation. When the house of wax starts melting there is a cool visual of the murderous twins back the way they were when they were conjoined. They literally land on top of one one-another, in kind of a sexual way. This whole idea works the same way with Carly and Nick’s relationship. They were at odds at the beginning of the story and have to come together to fight for their survival in the end.


Not only are they reunified, but their relationship seems to have developed into something more. I love the fact that the brother and sister twins are the last two standing in House of Wax. There’s also this almost subconscious idea that only Nick is worthy of loving Carly. Since Nick is able to protect her and survive, when no one else could. image

The horror genre traditionally favors stories about strong women in peril who kick ass. This film puts a twist on that convention with brother and sister protagonists who are at odds at the beginning of the story and have to come together to fight for their survival. Horror movies are typically about external forces that change your life, and either you deal with them, or you try to escape. If you try to escape, you usually die, but if you confront the situation, you usually survive. image

In this film, we have a brother and sister whose biggest problem isn’t the deadly crisis they’re facing, but their own relationship. They have to not only find strength in themselves; they have to confront the issues between them, learn to trust each other and work together as a team to defeat the killers. image

Nick is supposed to be the “evil” twin. He’s in and out of jail, been thrown out of his parents’ house, and lost a football scholarship due to his delinquent behavior. Even given that, he has a lot of good and decency in him and is really just covering up for the fact that he is in a lot of pain. But the fact that he points out he is “evil” could also suggest that he has some underlying dark desires. Even the fact that the movie is called House of Wax, house being the symbol for family is interesting. You might forget Carly and Nick are brother and sister and think they are a real couple (like I did) at a few points in the film. Incest subtext anyone? Here are a few examples:

They get half naked around each other. Nick literally gives her the shirt off his back, a small gesture of his loyalty to her. Too bad he doesn’t just walk around the whole movie like that…
Nick shows jealousy towards her boyfriend.  image
Nick puts out this bad boy vibe.
Nick seems to always be hitting on his sister Carly.  image
They are constantly giving these scorching looks to each other. Like literally, scorching! image
Yep! No incest here! So in a nutshell, the sexual incestuous subtext comes melting through the screen! image

Don’t look so shocked Carly! You know it’s true! But seriously, the House of Wax goes up in flames! I always thought (and hoped) there would be a sequel to this film, given how it ended with them leaving in the ambulance. But it has been nearly ten years and I guess it is not going to happen. Nooooooo! I guess we will have to rely on our imaginations. In the meantime enjoy this fan video of their relationship, they used one of my favorite songs in it BTW.

What are your thoughts on the film? Haven’t seen it yet, purchase the film on Amazon.

More from House of Wax on my main blog, click here.

Categories: Brother/Sister, Film, Twins | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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