To celebrate Women in Horror Month, I will be highlighting some of my favorite undersung female characters in horror films each day this month. These posts will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned do yourself a solid and check them out before reading all the way through.
Today I’m celebrating Paige Edwards from 2005’s House of Wax. This character isn’t undersung as much as unfairly maligned.
Obviously Paris Hilton was a big part of the cultural zeitgeist at the point she was cast in this film as evident from her being the subject of the film’s poster. Part of the film’s marketing campaign promised viewers the chance to “See Paris Die!” and Hilton went along with the mean-spirited and overtly misogynistic campaign because as a socialite made (in)famous by a sex tape she knew what the game was and how to play it.
Obviously you can infer I have a lot of negative feelings towards the insane level of vitriol directed at Paris Hilton in the aughts (a lot of which seems to have thankfully dissipated as more people are realizing she purposely played into a persona). It probably doesn’t hurt that her iconic one-hit wonder “Stars are Blind” is back in vogue thanks to Promising Young Woman‘s amazing soundtrack either. Her 2006 self-titled album was truly the best produced vanity album money could buy, and I still unironically enjoy the album to this day.
I say all this to acknowledge that Paris Hilton, if nothing else, has always been a good sport. And I think that is extremely evident in her character Paige Edwards as well.
Despite the gross marketing campaign and gratuitous way Paige dies, I was shocked by how relatable and funny the character is. For a character pretty much written to be a tongue in cheek reference to their actress’s real life controversies, Paige is a funny, kind-hearted character who often says what the audience is thinking.
The protagonists of the film are a group of friends traveling to see a college football game. Paige is introduced while eating fries and encouraging her friend Carly (our final girl) to not give up on moving to New York City to pursue her new internship at InStyle magazine despite grossly high rental rates and Carly’s fears of flying free.
Paige is a caring and considerate friend to Carly and girlfriend to Blake. Early in the film, she confides to Carly she may be pregnant but isn’t sure. While Carly insists Paige should tell Blake right away she tells Carly she wants to wait till after the trip because Blake had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, and she doesn’t want to derail his excitement with the difficult conversation they may need to have about an unplanned pregnancy.
Allusions to Hilton’s infamous sex tape pretty much start immediately with Dalton sneaking up and filming Paige making out with her boyfriend Blake. Dalton seems to think this is a hilarious joke even though they are literally just a couple kissing. But Paige has a great sense of humor despite her friends’ shenanigans. The group is traveling to the game in two cars. When the rest of the group in the second car pulls up next to Blake and Paige’s car, they notice that Paige appears to be going down on Blake. They respond by laughing, and Carly calls Paige to make fun of her. Without missing a beat, Paige pops up, holds up a small tube, and coyly says “I dropped my stupid lip balm!” to explain the situation.
Paige has a refreshing amount of common sense most characters in slasher films lack. The friends camp overnight in the woods and notice an awful smell periodically wafting over. The next day, Carly insists on investigating the smell before they leave the campsite and Paige sarcastically quips, “yeah let’s go investigate the strange smell” in the what is honestly one of the most memorable one-liners in the film.
The group finds a pit of animal carcasses and a walking Hillbilly Horrors trope. While trying to navigate an awkward conversation with the stranger, Dalton bumbles over to ask Paige if she’s seen his camera to which she deadpans a perfect “are you kidding?”
Later in the film, Paige effectively evades her would-be killer for a while in a weird factory. She finds a pile of cell phones from previous victims and tries to use one before needing to run for cover. She hides in an abandoned car and manages to get a decent hit in on the killer with a pole she finds. Unfortunately, the killer manages to grab the pole and essentially uses it as a javelin to throw through the top of Paige’s head and impale her. She falls to her knees and sinks down on the pole as the killer films her in an obvious nod to her sex tape. Even without context it is an over-the-top death for a sarcastic yet sweet character.
Despite the gratitutiouness of the death, I appreciate the amount of dignity Paige has in this movie. It would have been so easy to make this character unlikeable, but she was written as a decent person who in and of herself wasn’t deserving of hate. I think the strength in this writing is it subtly tries to make you like Paige while still playing into what had to be obvious studio demands to make Paris Hilton’s involvement in the project as on the nose as possible.
Paige Edwards, hats off to you for being a better character than anyone in a House of Wax remake had any right to be.