31 (2016)

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  • 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.

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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.
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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.

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

  • notld90_poster
  • Writers: John A. Russo, George A. Romero
  • Director: Tom Savini
  • Starring: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley
  • Medium: SHUDDER (Streaming)

 

Synopsis

A re-telling of the 1968 classic. The dead suddenly start walking, and they are attacking and then feeding on any humans they can. The one benefit is that the zombies are slow and weak. The biggest problem is that their numbers keep growing larger.

Barbara and her brother are at a cemetery when they are attacked. Barbara escapes, but her brother does not make it out alive. Barbara finds an empty house for shelter and is soon joined by Ben, who is in the same boat. Eventually, they find out a couple families are holed up in the cellar. They must battle the zombies and each other to try to make it through the night.

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Tony Todd as Ben, trying to fight back a zombie

 

Review

I thought I remembered renting this back in the day shortly after it hit home video and don’t remember really thinking much one way or the other. I liked the original but just glossed over this one. Throughout the years, Night of the Living Dead (1968) grew on me more and more, and the tension is just amazing. I wanted to give the remake another shot and finally found it available through SHUDDER. I was doing my best to watch this movie on its own merits and stop comparing it to the original, but, really, can anyone get the source material purged from their memory before watching a remake?

With make-up effects maestro Tom Savini helming this film from the director’s chair, I expected some great effects and was not disappointed. With the film being in color, the effects could not be hidden in the shadows of black-and-white film. The zombies really seemed to be highlighted in this movie and with good reason. The blood, the decay – all done very well.

The story also takes some interesting turns thanks to some revisions by screenwriter (and original director) George A. Romero. He took the original script by himself and John A. Russo and fashioned it for a new generation. Whereas the original had a black lead (really unheard of in horror at the time), the focus shifts a little more towards Barbara this time, although Ben is still the driving force to try to save the group. Although the role of Ben was not written for a specific race, racial tensions were still high in 1968, and the film could be seen as a fight for racial equality. This film, with Barbara a much stronger character and hero, it could be seen as the feminist fight. It’s the only redeeming factor for a scene between her and Cooper towards the end of the film.

The acting is done well, with Bill Moseley doing a spot-on re-creation of the Johnnie character, and future Candyman (1992), Tony Todd, portrays the Ben character perfectly. The other bit-players do their parts well, although Tom Towles sometimes goes a little overboard portraying Harry Cooper. The big difference in character is Barbara. Instead of a mostly catatonic character, she becomes a strong lead and is believably portrayed by Patricia Tallman. I believe she could’ve kicked my ass.

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Barbara kicking ass this time around

 

Maybe it’s my own maturation, but I think this film has aged very well, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t impressed my first time around.

Film Rating: 7.5 don’t say zombies out of 10 | I don’t see this version replacing the original in my rotation, but I don’t see waiting another 20+ years to view it again, either.