Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Richard Brake
Release Date: December 20, 2016
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 6/10
Disc Rating: 8.5/10
From the visionary mind of Rob Zombie comes the horrific story of five carnival workers who are kidnapped on Halloween and held hostage in a large compound. At the mercy of their captors, they are forced to play a twisted game or life or death called 31. For the next 12 hours they must fight for their lives against an endless parade of homicidal maniacs.
The latest film from the twisted mind of Rob Zombie, ‘31’ joins a group of carnival workers on a 1970’s Halloween. Traveling on the road toward their next destination, the group is suddenly ambushed after nightfall and many are brutally murdered, with the few survivors taken prisoner. Unfortunately the five survivors soon discover they may not be the lucky ones upon discovering the reason for their abduction is to play a part in a sadistic game called 31 for the amusement of some wealthy strangers. Now all they have to do is survive twelve straight hours in an abandoned, mazelike structure while fending off a collection of various psychopaths dubbed “the heads” whose sole purpose is to kill them in the most brutal and painful manner possible; let the game begin.
Written and directed by Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, The Lords of Salem) who does a highly competent job at the helm of ‘31’ guiding his own script and delivering both the bloody insanity and unique imagery he always captures so beautifully, even if the script and a few other areas may be slightly lacking. The cast includes a number of familiar faces and talented individuals (many of which have previously collaborated with Zombie) including his wife and regular star Sheri Moon Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, The Lords of Salem), along with Jeff Daniel Phillips (The Lords of Salem, TV’s Westworld), Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Sublime, TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter), Meg Foster (They Live, Masters of the Universe), Kevin Jackson (Rosewood, 40 Days and Nights), Lew Temple (The Devil’s Rejects, Desierto), Richard Brake (TV’s Ray Donovan, Game of Thrones), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, TV’s Mozart in the Jungle) and more. Most of the cast delivers fairly capable performances in each of their respective roles, although Richard Brake tends to effortlessly steal most of the scenes he occupies with his brilliantly insane and over the top portrayal of Doom Head, easily the film’s vilest character.
The latest filmmaking effort from Rob Zombie was (as always) a film I was highly anticipating. I’ve found myself to be quite the fan of his films and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one for the most part since catching ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ in theaters on opening weekend. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I had quite a bit of fun with his latest bloody ride ‘31’. Yet, while I admittedly enjoyed the film quite a bit, I couldn’t help but feeling as if it never quite managed to reach the potential of his previous efforts. The characters are the usual nasty, vulgar and often just flat out unlikable folks that his fans have come to expect, and the minimal environment which most of the film is contained to allows for a perfectly claustrophobic setting; the notable dripping from the roof and pipes, and the unkempt manner of each section all contributes beautifully to the bleak tone, while also offering a gorgeous contrast to the room in which the high rollers observe the madness in comfort. The bloodshed is also nothing to disregard as ‘31’ definitely has its share of nasty moments to offer, even if none of the carnage really manages to breach the unsettling level so prominent in many memorable sequences from Zombie’s previous films; something that might have been rectified with an uncut/unrated release such as Zombie assured fans would be available on Blu-ray and DVD, although unfortunately this release does indeed contain only the R rated theatrical cut of the film (Zombie does mention a few of the moments that provided issues with the MPAA in the commentary track). The film certainly offers plenty of nasty and vulgar fun, but it does have its faults as well, particularly the lack of logic accompanying many scenes which often seem to be contradicted by another sequence, and the occasional over the top, sadistic behavior of the ‘heads’ which tends to become outright silly on more than one occasion and as a result often detracts from the tension in the process. It certainly isn’t Rob Zombie’s greatest filmmaking achievement to date (I personally consider ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ and ‘Lords of Salem’ to be among his finest), but any fan of his previous films will still want to make sure to give this one a whirl when they have the chance, it should be more than worth the cost of a rental for any fan of his work.
Overall, ’31’ is a twisted and blood soaked good time populated by the vile and sadistic characters that Zombie brings to life so well. The film offers plenty of bloodshed, some of the gloomy and artistic imagery and shots that Zombie captures so well and plenty of enjoyable insanity at hand throughout its course. Unfortunately the film also feels somewhat lacking in comparison to his previous efforts and the story feels largely rushed and inconsistent at points, with one comment or action contradicting another and some ridiculous comments or tidbits of dialogue which result in the intended tension to come off lacking. Many fellow fans of Rob Zombie’s work and those who enjoyed ’31’ will undoubtedly be disappointed to discover that the release is also absent of the promised uncut version (or the ‘Zombie Cut’ as many refer to it), but that shouldn’t deter fans of his films from at least renting this one if they haven’t yet had the chance to check it out, even if they may be hesitant to drop the funds on a blind purchase.
The Blu-ray release of ‘31’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks pretty wonderful as a whole and delivers a consistently sharp and detailed presentation with no notable faults to be found within. It holds up admirably even during the many darkly lit sequences and never results in anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible (although the ridiculously shaky camerawork in a few sequences such as the chainsaw fight can result in a few moments becoming a bit hard to decipher). Overall, this is a solid high definition video presentation complimented by a more than adequate bitrate that should easily please.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack provides a sharp, clean and often quite aggressive audio presentation from start to finish. It frequently utilizes all five available channels in order to immerse the viewer within the eerie (and also quite fantastic) soundtrack, in addition to sending dripping water, spinning chainsaw blades, some creepy or taunting noises, and more throughout the various speakers, yet never causing any dialogue which might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a pretty great 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that perfectly complements the overall viewing experience and shouldn’t disappoint in the slightest.
The Blu-ray release of ‘31’ includes a couple of fantastic extras. Included on the release is an ‘Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rob Zombie’ in which he details in depth the numerous issues and time constraints involved in the limited shooting schedule allotted. We are also treated to a thorough look at the making of the film in the feature length documentary ‘In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making of 31’ (running approximately 2 hours, 11 minutes in length) which includes interviews/comments with the cast and crew, tons of behind the scenes footage and more. It’s also worth mentioning that the Digital HD release of the film will include an extended 4 hour version of the making of documentary, therefore those who often discard the included Digital HD codes may want to make an exception for this one.