31 (2016)

31_poster

  • Writer: Rob Zombie
  • Director: Rob Zombie
  • Starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Brake
  • Medium: Shudder (Streaming)

Synopsis

A group of sideshow workers get kidnapped on Halloween to play a game called 31. They have 12 hours to kill or be killed. The thing is: no one has ever survived until the end of the game.

Review

The film starts out in black and white with the killer Doom-Head (Richard Brake) delivering a big monologue to his latest victim. The speech is written and performed like Exorcist III was on, and they wanted to steal Brad Dourif’s Gemini Killer performance, going so far as to talk about how long cockroaches can survive after decapitation (the Gemini Killer talks about how long a human head can continue to see after decapitation). I don’t know if the idea was to emulate or pay homage or just blatantly rip off the performance, but, based on a later character, I’d go with the latter.

31_doom
Doom-Head invoking Brad Dourif’s Gemini Killer

The sideshow workers are traveling by van to their next spot. In Rob Zombie fashion, they all have that white trash quality he writes so well. You have Sheri Moon Zombie as the lead female, and Jeff Daniel Phillips (who looks like Rob Zombie) as the lead male, just like in his film, The Lords of Salem. I have a feeling the scenes in the van and everything before the kidnapping is to make you think what a fun-loving group and maybe get some sort of connection to the group, but…I don’t know…I didn’t feel anything.

After the kidnapping, Malcolm McDowell, in white wig, along with Judy Geeson and Jane Carr, set the game in motion. If you are familiar with The Most Dangerous Game or The Running Man, then you know the plot. I’m not going to say anything negative regarding recycling the plot because it can be done well…I remember enjoying the film Slashers, which used the plot and tied it to a reality tv show. In this case, though, it’s set in 1976, and the killing is just for the amusement of the three. Still…that being said, there really isn’t anything new in the storyline here.

There is an attempt at emotion after the first kill, but I didn’t feel it. It didn’t heighten any emotions. The first killer is a nazi midget, who gets a lot of screen time, but the other killers get limited screen time before they are dispatched. Lew Temple plays one of the killers, and, if the part was not meant for Bill Moseley, then Lew just did his best Otis Driftwood impersonation. At times, he actually sounded like Bill Moseley. Can you fault Rob Zombie for ripping off one of his own most popular characters? Anyway, the nazi midget isn’t all that appealing, and the others are not on screen long enough to have any impact…until Doom-Head is called upon again. I guess he is supposed to be the “cool” villain. Again…he didn’t do much for me – he doesn’t pull you in like the Firefly clan did.

Issues I had with the way the film played out:

  • Meg Foster lasts for quite a while and delivers a couple crippling blows to the killers. Then, she ends up getting killed so easily. It didn’t seem to fit with what went before.
  • There seemed to be a lot of slow-motion. They didn’t need to pad the time because it ran well over 90 minutes. My thought is that they needed some emotional scenes as deaths were discovered. Since the actors may have had limited ranges, they decided to go with silent, slo-mo to cover up the inability to emote.
  • Sherri Moon Zombie is the final survivor. Would love to see a Rob Zombie movie where she gets killed off first. That would be surprising. Her surviving until the end is getting boring.
  • Neither the “good guys” nor “bad guys” draw you in one way or the other to get you involved. You just watch the action unfold without any attachment.

The positives:

  • The soundtrack was great. I would buy the album.
  • Sherri Moon Zombie is not as unlikable as she was in The Lords of Salem. This time around, she’s just blah. Didn’t like her. Didn’t dislike her. She seemed to underplay her role a bit more this time around.
31_goodguys
Jeff Daniel “Rob Zombie” Phillips and Sheri Moon Zombie

Film Rating: 4.5 Clowns out of 10 | I almost rented this movie off Amazon. Thank god I saved my money and lucked out to have the film appear on Shudder instead. Deciding if I’d watch it again. I tried a second viewing of The Lords of Salem and couldn’t get through it. This one is slightly better, so maybe I could try a repeat viewing eventually.

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