DIRECTOR: Rob Zombie
WRITER: Rob Zombie
Sheri Moon Zombie
Jeff Daniel Phillips
On the day of Halloween, a group of travelling carnival employees are currently doing a road trip across the back roads of America are ambushed and kidnapped. The group is taken to a large compound known as Murderworld. On Halloween, they are thrown into a sick and twisted game of survival known as 31. The group must survive for 12 hours against a barrage of blood-thirsty killers who are sent in to terminate them all before the 12-hour time limit is up.
I'm a big fan of Rob Zombie. I grew up listening to his band and even appreciated his transition from lead singer to film director. While his first feature film was the hyped and underwhelming House Of 1000 Corpses, it's follow-up was the brilliant and gritty Devil's Rejects. He later gave us two very different takes with his Halloween remakes. He followed both those films with his most mature work, the slow burn, atmospheric, and surreal The Lords Of Salem. While he's been hit and miss, I still think he leaves his signature style on his films.
Now we've come to his latest film 31. Some will call his latest film his most violent or his most bloody and brutal film to date. While I think the film is gory and does contain a lot of bloodshed. I personally don't get those comments. This movie has an over the top quality to everything that happens in the film. I thought Halloween II and Devil's Rejects were much more gruesome. I think the difference with these films is the cruel nature of the kills. Devil's Rejects and HII felt sadistic, mean-spirited and cold with its gore. This was also boarding on funny.
31 doesn't take much time at all in getting to the killing and bloodshed. While we are introduced to our carnival workers, shit hits the fan almost immediately. We are never given much time to care for any of these characters. This story wants to dive right on into the carnage. All of the character development is tossed out the window in favour of more time in delivering the different ways of watching our twisted killers hunt and kill our carnival folk. Rewatching it now, a year later, I found that I only cared for Meg Foster's character. Throwing us into a group with no history really hurts this film.
With all character development being completely abandoned, I felt like 31 lacked real heart. The only character that I felt myself rooting for was Meg Foster as Venus Virgo. She felt like the one character in the film which delivered any emotional range. While her character fights for survival, she also had the best overall character arc. I felt for her every single time that you see her trying to come to terms with what needs to be done to survive and her internal battle of what is morally right.
Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob Zombie's wife and muse is always cast and most of the time, it see's her getting a lot of screentime. This time around, I think he got it completely wrong. While she plays the bad ass, final girl. I believe that Meg Foster's Venus Virgo overshadows her completely. Richard Blake as Doom Head who is 31's big bad, also gives an excellent performance that ultimately leaves SMZ in the dust. I also really enjoyed Malcolm McDowell in his over the top performance as 31's other villain.
What 31 does manage to get right is that it's never once dull. The pacing of the movie is so quick and relentless that it never slows down long enough for the movie to ever feel slow. In being so rapidly paced and fast moving. It sadly feels like it doesn't have enough time to build on any of the story. The movie just moves from one scene to the next with time jumps, and I believe that this is intentionally done by Rob Zombie as he doesn't have much of a story here at all. This is a paper-thin plot.
The cinematography is a little bit of a let down in 31. Cinematography and filming style is not one of Rob Zombie's strong suits. Like his music, it's all very frantic and erratic. 31 is his most poorly made looking film for me, and that may come down to budget. The shaky-cam thing in the movie is just constant here. At times, it's hard to see whats going on. He also uses these terrible freeze frames during the carnage that kills the slow. Don't get me started on the scene wipes into each new scene. Leave that for Star Wars.
I'm a fan of when movies don't give everything away. I don't even mind the odd film being left open or left up to supporters or detractors to make up their own mind about what the film meant. With 31 However, I was left with more questions than answers. I felt like they didn't really explain or answer why Murdertown exists, or the game 31 is played. Does the syndicate go deeper than just the three people we see throughout? A lot of things are just left by the side in hopes the gore and violence will make you not think about why all this is taking place.
I found the ending of 31 to be slightly annoying. The end is clearly added in the hopes that if the film is successful, they may be able to get a sequel greenlit. They kept this open-ended. I'd have much preferred if Rob Zombie gave us something insanely dark and twisted and ended 31 on a downbeat note. While every film that ends on a bleak note doesn't need it, I think I'd have preferred it in this films case. It would've been a situation where someone went rogue and against the syndicate who created 31.
DEATH TOLL: 15
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A priest is killed with an axe.
- People have their throats sliced.
- People are stabbed to death.
- A lot of dead bodies are shown.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed in the shoulder.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed in the chest.
- Someone is hit in the face with a baseball bat.
- Scenes of cannibalism.
- Smashed in the head with a table leg with nails in it.
- Someone's ear is chewed off.
- A woman is cut open with a chainsaw.
- Someone falls on a chainsaw and is sliced in half.
- Someone is decapitated with a chainsaw.
- Someone has their head pulverised with a baseball bat.
- A person is sliced up the stomach with a knife.
Rewatching 31 after not seeing it for a year. I think the movie played even worse on a second viewing. Time hasn't been kind to this movie. I noticed the terrible character development, the paper-thin plot, the huge mistake of Sherri Moon Zombie being the final girl when it should have been Meg Foster. Sadly, gore and the great acting from Meg Foster, Richard Brake, and Jeff Daniel Phillips can't save Rob Zombie delivering his mash-up of Hostel meets The Purge. His worst film to date for me.