In 1974, a woman is making a wax mask as one of her sons eats breakfast silently. Her husband enters with another son who is throwing fits of rage and agony. He is strapped and taped into his chair and knocks over the wax mask in the process, smashing it to pieces. He then scratches his mother's hand and she slaps the child across the face.
In 2005, Carly Jones, her twin brother Nick, her boyfriend Wade, her best friend Paige, Paige's boyfriend Blake and Nick's friend Dalton are on their way to a football game in Louisiana. When night falls, the group sets up camp, after which a foul smell hangs in the air. A stranger in a pickup truck visits their campsite, shines his lights and refuses to leave or address them until Nick smashes one of his headlights. The next morning, Wade discovers that his car's fan belt is broken. Carly and Paige wander into the woods, where Carly tumbles down a hill and falls into a pit filled with rotting animal carcasses. After rescuing her, the group meets a strange, rural man named Lester, who offers to drive Carly and Wade to the nearby town of Ambrose to get a new fan belt, while the rest of them go to the football game.
The two arrive at Ambrose, which is virtually a ghost town. Unable to find an attendant at the gas station, they wander into the church, disrupting a funeral. There, they meet a mechanic named Bo, who offers to sell them a fan belt after the funeral. While waiting for the services to end, Carly and Wade visit the 'House of Wax', a wax museum which itself is made of wax and is the central feature of the town. The gas station does not have the right size fan belt, so they follow Bo to his house. Inside, Wade is knocked out by Bo's twin brother, Vincent, who is wearing a wax mask to cover his disfigured face. Outside, Carly realizes Bo is the one who visited them the night before, after noticing his car's broken headlight. She runs to the church for help, but finds out that it is populated only by wax sculptures. Bo captures Carly and brings her to the cellar of the gas station, where she is restrained and her lips are glued. Meanwhile, Vincent strips Wade naked and straps him to a chair, where he is both injected and covered in molten wax.
Nick, Dalton, Paige and Blake realize they will not arrive at the game in time and return. Nick and Dalton arrive in Ambrose to find Carly and Wade. Nick visits the gas station, where he questions Bo about Carly's whereabouts. When she tries to gain Nick's attention, Bo cuts off the tip of Carly's finger, but she uses the blood from her finger to open her glued lips apart and screams for help. Nick fends off Bo and frees Carly. Meanwhile, Dalton finds Wade, who is still alive but unable to move because of the wax. Attempting to peel off the wax, Dalton realizes that he is unintentionally removing Wade's skin in the process. Vincent finds Dalton and slashes Wade's face with a machete, killing him. After a chase through the museum, Vincent catches Dalton and beheads him. Meanwhile, Nick and Carly realize that all of the town's inhabitants are real people covered in wax and that Bo and Vincent have been luring people in and covering them in wax to make the figures look more realistic.
At the campsite, just as Blake and Paige are about to have sex, Vincent arrives and kills Blake, after which he chases Paige to an abandoned sugar mill where he kills her. Nick and Carly return to the house to find Wade and Dalton. When Bo and Vincent return, they chase Carly and Nick to the House of Wax. It is revealed that Bo is the "evil" twin and Vincent is the "good" twin; following their parents' death, Bo has been controlling the more mild-mannered Vincent through physical and verbal abuse. After a chase, Carly beats Bo to death with a baseball bat. Nick unintentionally sets the House of Wax on fire and the wax figures start to melt, as does the entire museum. Enraged by his brother's death, Vincent chases Carly to the top floor, but Nick attacks him, allowing Carly to stab him. His body falls through the floor and he lands on top of his brother Bo's corpse. Carly and Nick escape the House of Wax as it melts to the ground.
The next day, the police arrive and report that Ambrose has been abandoned for ten years when the local sugar mill failed. As Nick and Carly are taken to a hospital, the policeman reveals Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair had a third son. From inside the ambulance, Carly sees Lester (who is supposedly the third brother) who smiles and waves goodbye as the ambulance van leaves the town.Elisha Cuthbert as Carly Jones
Chad Michael Murray as Nick Jones
Brian Van Holt as Bo Sinclair / Vincent Sinclair
Thomas Adamson as young Bo
Sam Harkess as young Vincent
Paris Hilton as Paige Edwards
Jared Padalecki as Wade Felton
Jon Abrahams as Dalton Chapman
Robert Ri'chard as Blake Johnson
Damon Herriman as Lester Sinclair
Andy Anderson as Sheriff
Dragicia Debert as Trudy Sinclair
Murray Smith as Dr. Victor Sinclair
Emma Lung as Jennifer (uncredited)
The film was originally titled Wax House, Baby before Warner Bros. realized they had permission to use the title House of Wax. Posters and advertising banners were printed with the Wax House, Baby title. Principal photography of House of Wax took place in Queensland, Australia.
In January 2006, Village Roadshow Studios owners Village Theme Park Management and Warner Brothers Movie World Australia announced they were suing special effects expert David Fletcher and Wax Productions because of a fire on the set during production.
The $7 million lawsuit alleges that Mr. Fletcher and Wax Productions were grossly negligent over the fire, which destroyed part of the Gold Coast's Warner Bros. Movie World studios. The alleged grounds of negligence included not having firefighters on stand-by and using timber props near a naked flame. The set where the fire broke out has now been demolished and is a field kept for Movie World for future projects.
Opening in 3,111 theaters, the film grossed $12 million in its opening weekend. House of Wax earned $70 million worldwide, $32 million of which came from North American receipts. House of Wax also earned $42 million in VHS/DVD rentals. The film premiered at several festivals, including Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Critics Circle, Tribeca Film Festival, Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, among others.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 25% based on 151 reviews; the average rating is 4.3/10. The site's consensus reads, "Bearing little resemblance to the 1953 original, House of Wax is a formulaic but better-than-average teen slasher flick." On Metacritic, which uses an average of critics' reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 41 out of 100 based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars and wrote, "House of Wax is not a good movie, but it is an efficient one and will deliver most of what anyone attending House of Wax could reasonably expect...assuming it would be unreasonable to expect very much." He said of Hilton's performance that "she is no better or worse than the typical Dead Post-Teenager and does exactly what she is required to do in a movie like this, with all the skill—admittedly finite—that is required." Film critic Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post called it a "guilty pleasure" and wrote that it gives horror fans exactly what they want. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle rated it 4/5 stars and wrote, "After a month, no one will talk about this movie again. Still, with a picture like this, there is really only one question: Is it fun? Yes. Lots. Definitely." Bruce Westbrook of the Houston Chronicle called it boring and poorly-acted, though he complimented Cuthbert and Murray. A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote, "The set design is fairly elaborate by the standards of the genre, and the victims don't die in precisely the order you might expect, but everything else goes pretty much according to formula".
House of Wax: Music from the Motion Picture is the title of a publicly released soundtrack used for House of Wax, consisting of commercially recorded songs. A second album, simply titled House of Wax, was released containing the film score, composed by John Ottman.
There is a song appearing in the film which is not integrated in the soundtrack. It is "Roland" by Interpol, and appears in the scene when the group decides to camp over the night at the beginning of the film. The song that plays during the end credits is "Helena" by My Chemical Romance.