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Friday, January 6, 2017

31 2016 * * Stars

31Director: Rob Zombie
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Malcolm McDowell

31 is my latest review. Directed by rocker-turned-shocker Rob Zombie, it's twisted, dark, and bloody. Heck, it's what you've come to expect from the guy whose own childhood involved seeing someone getting their head bashed in at a carnival riot. Always the trepidation hound, Zombie goes grainy, using freeze frames and throwing elements from The Running Man, The Warriors, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a cinematic blender. This helps him justify 31's running time of 102 minutes. In the Rob Zombie film canon, I would rank this thing higher than The Devil's Rejects but far lower than Zombie's underrated classic, House of 1000 Corpses.

Taking place during Halloween (that might be where 31's title came from) and filmed on location in Los Angeles, CA (I thought it was Texas), 31 has all the necessary elements for a Rob Zombie concoction. He loves the 70's so you gotta have the appropriate tunage from that era ("Walk Away" by the James Gang opens things up). Then you gotta include Zombie's penchant for sadistic violence and cocky torture along with his need to create a funhouse-like atmosphere. Finally, you gotta incorporate the actors/actresses that he likes on his template. Malcolm McDowell, Welcome Back, Kotter's Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and Judy Geeson are all featured in 31's supporting roles. Oh yeah, did I mention Rob digs the 1970's? Mmm hmm.

Anyway, 31 has a couple of its villains dress up like extras from the period drama, Barry Lyndon. And Zombie's trouper wife (Sherri Moon Zombie) gets to play the protagonist and/or girl in peril for a change. Towards 31's conclusion, she looks like a bloodied up Marilyn Burns from "Texas Chainsaw" circa 1974. She appears exhausted and you the viewer might feel the same way (that's exhausted, not elated).

The opening ten minutes of 31, involve a few unlikable denizens riding in a bus, chatting about weed and sex and such, and looking for their next gig as full-time carnival workers. These ten minutes are a clear homage to Tobe Hooper's opening sequence a la The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While they are traveling down a dirt road, they run into a roadblock with what looks like scarecrows and other Halloween-themed structures. As they get out of said bus, they are attacked and taken to a remote building. There, a game is played that will last about twelve hours. The helpless workers are put in rooms that appear to look like mazes. They have to fend off evil characters with names like Sick-Head, Psycho-Head, and Death-Head. Lots of chainsaws, knives, and other weapons are involved in these gladiator-like battles. The Mamas and the Papas, The Wolfman Jack Show, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Lynyrd Skynyrd all play in the background. Oh Rob, you scallywag!

Image result for 31 movie scenesNow as mentioned earlier, Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses really shook me upon first viewing. In my book, it remains his best movie to date. Watching "Corpses", I realized that Rob Zombie would never make a flick this manically effective ever again. I was right. For various reasons, 31 just doesn't have the same upshot as something like House of 1000 Corpses. Yeah it has nasty dialogue spoken by the antagonists (most of it pertains to rape and assault), lots of decomposed bodies, standard torture porn, and non-stop bloodletting. However, 31 doesn't come off as fresh, or original, or groundbreaking, or radical. Instead, it feels like an excuse for Zombie to make yet another horror vehicle that probably won't get much of a nationwide release anyway. Flaunting his main plot point as a savage game of life or death, Zombie has clearly run out of ideas to make you squirm. And what's worse, he kinda holds back which is rare for the same dude whose bloodcurdling voice belted out "Thunder Kiss '65" (ha ha).

In conclusion, 31 isn't awful but let's be honest, there's at least "31" reasons to see something else in the fright department. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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