31 (2016) Movie Review

Friday, June 24, 2016

31 (2016) Movie Review

31 (2016) Movie Review

Here are a couple of things that must have gone through Rob Zombie's mind whilst shooting 31: "Who needs a plot when you got a psychopathic Nazi-midget?", "Who gives a damn about plausibility when you have Malcolm McDowell himself dressed up like a French Aristocrat and depicting a character that is named Father Murder?" and "Why would I make ambitious when the crowd simply wants sadistic & graphic violence?" And you know what? If Rob Zombie really was thinking these things, he was damn right! Personally, I'm an enormous fan of Zombie's "House of 1,000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects" and I remotely enjoyed his remake of "Halloween", even though the critics were quite harsh about it. But then he suddenly went psychedelic and experimental with "Halloween II" and "The Lords of Salem" and many fans – yours truly included – were disappointed. I, for one, was extremely happy to read that, with "31", Rob Zombie would return to the basics of crude and repulsive horror/shlock cinema! Because, after all, the revival of 70s grindhouse/drive-in exploitation cinema was largely the deed of Rob Zombie and not of Quentin Tarantino! So, "31" actually doesn't a have a real plot but is a mixture of homages to genre classics (for example "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") and borrowed ideas of cult classics ("The Most Dangerous Game", "The Running Man"…)

A ramshackle old RV full of traveling circus artists/carnies is driving through the middle of redneck nowhere on Halloween's day 1976, and pretty much all they ever do is foul-mouthing and fornicating. When night falls, however, they notice the road is blocked with immense scarecrows. Before they properly realize what's going on, the RV and all its passengers are brutally attacked by mysterious creeps and three people are killed instantly. The remaining five survivors, two women and three men, awake tied up and chained in an abandoned factory where three elderly lunatics dressed up as French Aristocrats joyfully inform them that they are the players in this year's traditional game of 31. They are released in a dark and creepy labyrinth and have to survive for twelve hours while being chased by some of the most demented sickos ever caught on film, including a Spanish babbling Nazi-midget, clown siblings with chainsaws and deranged German sex deviants. The group defend themselves quite well, though, and thus the crazy tormentors bring in their ultimate secret weapon, the unbeatable master-psycho Doom-Head!

There isn't really too much to write about Rob Zombie's latest film, in fact. Either you're a fan of extreme and relentless violence and "31" is a must-see for you, or you'll completely detest the film for its lack of plot, character background, style or overall lack of taste. If even writer/director Zombie himself repeatedly stated that this is his most brutal movie to date, there isn't any reason to not believe him. "31" features numerous scenes in which people's heads are smashed in with a bludgeon, torsos are cut in half by chainsaws and throats are slit with rusty knives. Still, I can't help mentioning that most of this gruesome stuff also featured in "House of 1,000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects", but those two were suspenseful and haunting on top! "31" is sheer mindless horror entertainment but it won't leave a long-lasting impression. As usual, Rob Zombie surrounds himself with a cast that he worked well with before, including his own wife Sheri Moon, Meg Foster, Jeff Daniel Philips and many other familiar faces. The soundtrack is terrific as well, which is another Rob Zombie trademark, and features for example the beautiful song "California Dreaming" during a rare quiet and peaceful scene.

I really enjoyed this movie, despite the awesome atmosphere of the crowd which included most of the cast and the director himself, it was the film itself that had me on the edge of my seat. The opening monologue by the most evil, dangerous and deadliest clown of them all Doom-Head himself (but don't call him a clown) sets an extremely exciting pace to the film. James Gang's Walkaway was the opening credit's song that immediately told us that we were back in the 70's just like Rob Zombie prefers to set most of his films in and he made the right choice again. Setting the film in 1976 made our main characters that bit more interesting but it was the cast itself that made these characters really enjoyable to watch, so we meet our quirky carnies and learn a bit about their own little world. But before long the carnies are on their way to their next gig, driving through the desert on Halloween eventually being kidnapped in a way that's quite different from what you'd expect from a Zombie movie and find themselves in Murderworld. An enormous underground compound run by three old psychos in powder wigs who explain the rules of the game known as 31 where five people each year are set free in Murderworld each given a numbered bracelet, a weapon and must try to survive for 12 hours which once over are set free but so far there has never been a winner. The five carnies are untied as they enter the labyrinth with a weapon waiting for the first of the six clowns known as the heads to attack. Then what commences is none stop attacks, fights to the death, torture, bloody mayhem and the true hell that is Murderworld! I found this film quite thrilling you really don't know what's going to happen next like when we see who the toughest of the carnies really is and how all the heads are all very unique. Yes the brutality is extreme even for Rob Zombie but what really makes this film stand out is the originality of the story and how characters defy every expectation not one character slows down this film in fact it's the characters that drive this film and surprise an impress you constantly because they keep changing yet still keep their character true. The soundtrack worked very well to set the tone and setting for the film just like Zombie's masterpiece The Devil's Rejects. The ending couldn't have been better and all the actors brought their A game. The actors that really stole the show were Richard Blake who was indescribable as Doom-Head, Sheri Moon Zombie as Charly surprised everyone as being a full on action hero when she had to be, Meg Foster who was so deeply fascinating as Venus occasionally being a bad-ass and Jeff Daniel Phillips as the macho mechanic that cares about his group and will defend them with a crowbar! All in all Zombie has made this fan very happy when it hits theaters will make all his fans happy but I don't think critics will like it then again most of the greatest horror movies of all time were hated by critics initially so don't let that stop you from watching this flick!

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