Tuesday, October 4, 2016

31


   This has a lot of abysmal reviews online, and I mean... I get it, but I don't agree. People just love their hyperbole. That, and I'm a pretty undemanding and open-minded moviegoer. 31 is Rob Zombie's latest film, and despite popular opinion it's not his worst. Nor is it his best. It just is what it is. Zombie has his own style, and I respect that. Not everyone's going to like his style, but he sticks to it. I like it, personally, even if don't always like his movies. I liked House of 1000 Corpses, and The Devil's Rejects. I was rather indifferent about The Lords of Salem, but I guess I can say I liked 31. Which is somewhat disappointing because I really wanted to love it.

   The movie is set in 1978, and is about a group of traveling carnies who get abducted and forced to play "31", a game organized by a new anonymous elites- all kitted out in French aristocrat costumes -where demented clowns and killers chase the group down and murder them. There's no real rules or anything, but the game only lasts 12 hours. What happens to a contestant if they survive all night? The guy running it doesn't know, because it's never happened, ergo they've never had to plan for it. The movie doesn't do much with it's premise, but I didn't expect it to. The five carnies have to survive an onslaught of killers in weird attire. That's not just the premise, or the concept, that's the whole plot of the movie.

   You know your movie is pretty thin when you can describe the whole story in one sentence and manage to not leave anything out. Except who dies and who doesn't, of course. I bet you can guess who doesn't though. I mean, even calling it 'guessing' is kind of insulting to movies that actually make you guess. In this case I'd just call it a given. But, I won't tell, lest I be cited for spoilers. Anyways, the movie is colorful but it's not all that energetic or shocking. There's a few fun scenes, but despite all the craziness, the movie is decidedly kind of dull. There needed to be more weapons, more villains, and varied locations.

   You could vomit a thrift store's worth of junk all over one of these sets, light it properly, and it'd still be more interesting than 'generic industrial complex with a lot of pipes'. The movie maybe had one or two interesting sets? But they don't get that much screentime. I heard the movie had to get cut twice to get an R rating. Why cut it though? Stick to your NC-17. I don't even remember this movie getting a wide theatrical release, and in the end, the movie didn't feel all that gruesome. Objectively speaking, this wasn't shocking. Or even all that bloody. I don't even feel like it's Zombie's bloodiest movie. There's lots of stabbing and blood, but most of it is obscured by shaky cam and cutaways. What the hell?

   Richard Brake plays the most interesting villain, Doom-Head, and he was fun to watch. The movie opens and closes on him, but he's not a constant presence throughout. People like to hate on Sheri Moon Zombie but I never had an issue with her or her acting, and still don't. She matches these movies and makes an effort to get into whatever kind of character she's playing. The rest of the cast is fun, but nothing special. With the exception of Malcolm McDowell and Meg Foster. I get how she'd end up in a movie like this, but I really didn't expect McDowell. Neither are given much of anything to do unfortunately. The movie also doesn't make much use of it's 70's setting either. Honestly, if they didn't tell us it was 1978, you might not even know.

   I'm not saying it doesn't feel like it's taking place in the 70's, I'm just saying it doesn't matter either way. It makes no reference to anything socially relevant happening in that year or that era. The dialog matches the era, so do the clothes, but I still see people wear that shit and talk that way. The movie feels retro, by it's very nature, which is good- but it wasn't necessary. I guess I expected more from the movie. There's probably a dozen more creative things that could've been done that wouldn't have much impacted the movie's low budget, which was crowdfunded as is. I think Zombie did alright with this one, but just alright. It's fairly middle of the road. Watchable, bloody and colorful, with at least one really fun performance. But the movie isn't nearly as crazy as fans (including myself) would like it to be.

   Despite all my complaints, I was entertained and like I said it was watchable. Which puts it head and shoulders over so much other crap that I've seen. I'd watch this movie again, if only for Richard Brake's Doom-Head. The same thrills you'd get from this, you could also get from Zombie's earlier movies. But, still, this isn't bad. It's just really thin, very simple, and not nearly as wild as it was promised to be. Not only does the movie fall rather flat in comparison to his others, it pales in comparison to other crazy gorefests of the genre. Zombie makes grungy and stylish movies, and 31 is no exception, but it's just too standard to make much of impression. If it wasn't for Doom-Head, I'd suggest skipping it altogether. It's watchable, and if you've got beer, popcorn and friends, maybe you guys will have a blast, just don't expect too much.

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