Horror Movie Review: 31 (2016)


It’s been 11 years since The Devil’s Rejects (13 since House of 1000 Corpses). I mention this because the reality is this is how long it’s been since Rob Zombie has directed a really good horror movie. Don’t believe me? Since then we’ve had his disappointing Halloween remake, the diabolically bad sequel & the mind-numbingly boring Lords of Salem.

Fans will argue that the quality of House of 1000 Corpses & The Devil’s Rejects (the latter in particular, although it’s well worth remembering that Zombie hit gold with the cast there) ensures Zombie has a place in most horror movie fans hearts & this is true, up to a point. You see, now rather than approach a new Rob Zombie horror with excitement, its approached with a sense of trepidation, a hope that it’s going to be more Rejects & less Halloween II, a hope that he might be able to recapture the magic felt at early point of his movie making career.

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31 promised to be a film in the same vein as his early work & there is no denying it has a similar style but unfortunately once again Rob Zombie proves to be ALL style & no substance.

31 isn’t just an average horror movie, it’s a bad one.

The story surrounds a group of carnival workers who are road-tripping it in an RV to their next venue. It’s Halloween, 1976 (The title is the date, October 31st) & it’s not long before the group are randomly attacked on the road.

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A couple of them are killed, with the rest waking up in a run-down facility controlled by a group dressed as aristocrats (massive wigs, powered faces etc.). The survivors discover that they are in a game, a game called 31 where they must survive for 12 hours. They’ve been given basic weapons to fight off a group of killer’s intent on doing as much damage to them as possible.

The point of the game? Betting. The survivors are given odds that change as the movie goes on & the aristocrats bet on who will die. It’s a very simple premise that lacks a lot of finer details that could have improved the overall film.

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For example, the aristocrats…at the end of the film it shows them changing into upper class clothing. Stuff that makes them seem normal, however it lacks impact as you have no idea what their standing is in communities. It would have had so much more impact if we got flashes that suggested these people held prominent positions such as Mayor of Sheriff.

The same goes for the ‘killers’, a confusing bunch of people. Each has their own theme & behaviour that marks them out as different but early hints that several didn’t really want to take part is lost by the end. It implies they may actually be forced into this but that idea is never explored & then dropped completely when the final killer, Doom Head is called in to finish off the last of the survivors.

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That guy…fuck, Doom Head. While well-acted, Richard Brake does sleazy so well & exudes a level of threat not found in most, I mean the guy is playing the Night King in Game of Thrones, his character is infuriating. He monologues to such an extent it becomes tiresome & most of it is utter nonsense. I’m so sick of Rob Zombie’s ‘crazy but speaks eloquently & sensibly’ killers. What was interesting has been done to death now & Doom Head lacks the charm that other characters (Otis & Captain Spaulding) in his other movies had.

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The worst part of Doom Head’s talking is that it costs him at the end of the movie. He runs out of time before finishing off the last character. I know what you’re thinking…that’s pretty cool, right? That’s Zombie acknowledging the absurdity of his constant chatter & making him pay, right?

Wrong! You see, if that was the case why does the movie end with Doom Head coming after the lone survivor & killing them? Sure, you don’t actually see them die but he pulls two knives & they cock their fist. Add exhaustion & loss of blood & I’m pretty sure Doom Head wins that fight.

It makes it all pointless. The game, pointless. Doom Head’s monologue costing him, pointless.

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The whole movie is pointless. It’s just gratuitous gore (realistic but nothing new), constant dialogue (soooo much talking) & nudity. Nudity that makes no sense either. You see in the aristocrat’s opulent location they are being served food & drinks by fully nude girls & it’s purely for visual reason only.

Why Zombie didn’t decide to have his aristocrats behave more indecently & have a certain amount of depravity going on confuses me. Is it something that was cut? Why not run with a more Marquis de Sade angle? It would have made for much more interesting watching & made use of the fully naked girls. Also its 2016 Rob, where are the nude men? There where female aristocrats too.

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The whole movie is just one set piece to another with the first face-off (A Mexican, Nazi dwarf…I’m not even joking) lasting for ages. It’s here that the lead, Charly (Sherri Moon Zombie, who else!?) steps up to the disappointment of most. It’s not that Sherri Moon isn’t good, she’s better than good but she only has two styles…crazy & tough. Here we get tough, it’s infuriating as the movie hints at a more cowardly character at first. The hope was that she would be a character forced to step up in the face of the bloody horror show in front of her but that is lost in an instant.

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However, for all these negatives they don’t make the movie terrible, no what makes the movie terrible is the sickening use of shaky cam & a flashing light sequence that goes on for so long that it’s liable to give everyone a headache. The film is near unwatchable at times with the camera moving around as if a massive earthquake is occurring. This is not an over-statement, it is horrific & ruins many an exciting scene. Such as the chainsaw fight scene, something that was tense & exciting to watch but ruined by a camera that is doing everything possible to make sure you can’t see what’s occurring. It’s like watching a found-footage movie.

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There are so few positives here…a fun little reveal at a dinner table, the acting from most, the music, Richard Brake’s sleazy grin. It’s minor stuff, stuff that you’re desperately trying to find just so you can say that the movie isn’t the worst thing you’ve seen a while.

There you have it, 31 will be remembered for not being the worst thing I’ve seen in a while. It’s the worst horror Rob Zombie has done since Halloween II lacking originality, having some barmy edits & plot points that are inevitably pointless.

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The Devils Rejects was 11 years ago…

31
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    The Final Score - 3/10
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