"Things have been happening every night," says Carmina Vall, director of the Museu de Cera, Barcelona's wax museum. "The lights go out, you hear footsteps or bangs."
The atmosphere is certainly ghostly. We're in almost complete darkness, surrounded by silent figures as filmmaker Víctor Matellano shoots Wax , a Spanish horror film starring Geraldine Chaplin and Jack Taylor. "It is the first film that has been shot here. We had another one, but they only used the outside. We are absolutely delighted: the horror genre fits in very well here," Vall says.
As we wait for them to finish the scene - in which Jack Taylor, veteran US star of many a Spanish horror flick, walks forward with an ax in the style of another Jack (Nicholson in The Shining ) - Vall entertains us with a few anecdotes. "A few years ago one visitor, like you, ended up locked inside: the security guard heard noises and found several decapitated dummies. He was a Dutch junkie who had picked up the sword of James I and, pow, went around cutting off heads. Another time, a guard realized that a visitor was carrying off a leg. It was sticking out from beneath his raincoat. It had been torn off the model of Charles Manson - he was a fan. There are people like that, we all have our favorites. There are also those who kneel in front of Pope John XXIII and pray. As for me, I like Boccaccio."
Wax museums have been connected to horror since the very beginning"
"Filming here is a wonderful experience," Matellano enthuses, the scene now complete. "I am a fan of wax museums - because of that primitive and retro thing. And of course because of the cinematic aspect."
He explains the film is in part a homage to the 1953 classic House of Wax , which starred Vincent Price as a mad sculptor and Charles Bronson as his deaf and dumb apprentice. "Wax museums have been connected to horror since the very beginning," he says. "Madame Tussauds took casts from the faces of guillotine victims such as Robespierre." The Barcelona museum, he explains, is the work of movie set designer Enrique Alarcón (1917-1995). "That's why being here is like being on a film set."
Wax is making use of the whole of the museum, from the chamber of horrors to the washrooms. It tells the story of a journalist who spends a night recording in the museum at the request of a woman (Chaplin), who wants him to especially focus on the model of Dr Knox, a famed surgeon who experimented on other people's pain, as well as produced snuff movies. The film, which Matellano says will use Blair Witch -style subjective camerawork, is scheduled for release next year.