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It’s not easy being Elisha Cuthbert. First you get caught in a bear trap. (Ouch!) Then you have to dress like a skank while fleeing a psychotic porn producer. (Double ouch!) And now you get your lips Krazy Glue’d shut by a nutcase who’s embalmed your boyfriend in hot wax just because he stopped to use the bathroom. How much can a damsel in distress possibly take? A fair bit more, it turns out, as those who make it all the way to the end of Jaume Serra’s House of Wax will discover. A “re-imagining” of its 1953 source material, the film follows Carly (Cuthbert), a young woman who embarks on a fateful camping trip with five exceedingly attractive friends who seemingly represent the entire talent roster of the WB. Among them are her sweet boyfriend, Wade (Gilmore Girls’ Jared Padalecki); her bad-boy twin brother, Nick (One Tree Hill’s Chad Michael Murray); and Paige (Paris Hilton), a bleached-blond airhead who vamps around as if she were the next Paris Hilton. (Surprisingly, she isn’t awful so much as she’s just, well, Paris Hilton.) Things go terribly wrong when He Who Should Learn to Hold It and Carly stumble across a creepy, abandoned wax museum. For, as Carly soon learns, the museum is actually a collection of humans encased in wax, and she’s on her way to becoming its next exhibit. Unfortunately for viewers, almost an entire hour passes before the crew’s buffed-up and/or toned bodies are subjected to a single drop of hot wax. Though first-time feature director Serra and writers Chad and Carey W. Hayes pack some decent suspense into that hour—setting things in a rural Louisiana ghost town helps a lot—it’s still a hell of a wait for a horror-flick payoff. As soon as poor Wade is turned into a human candle, House of Wax does pick up the pace, but so much time has been squandered that the filmmakers must rush through the remaining slayings. And that means the moment in which Hilton takes a harpoon to the head is all too brief. Compared with watching that kind of showstopper, waiting for the accident-prone Cuthbert to bumble her way over evil is painful torture indeed.

—Mario Correa