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Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/20/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/15/2016
You know, things used to be fun with Rob Zombie. After making a name for himself with his musical career with White Zombie and his solo work (which still sounded like White Zombie), he made it clear that he wanted to move into other parts of entertainment. Having directed music videos for his work and others, In 1999, Zombie was asked to plan part of the Halloween Horror Nights attraction at Universal Studios. Universal was so impressed that they gave Zombie money to make a movie. That movie turned out to be House of 1000 Corpses, a movie which so offended the suits at Universal that they gave it back to Zombie. From that point on, people kept giving Zombie money to make more money. The result was The Devil's Rejects and a slew of truly awful movies. Well, I guess that the checks keep clearing, as we now have 31.
Taking place on Halloween in 1976, 31 introduces us to a group of carnival workers -- Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie), Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips), Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), Venus (Meg Foster), and Levon (Kevin Jackson) -- who don't seem to have a carnival. They are traveling through a desolate area going somewhere (maybe to find a carnival). They are forced to stop their overly elaborate RV by an obstruction in the road, and they are then kidnapped by a group of masked assailants. When they awaken, they find themselves in a factory setting where an announcement informs them that they are part of a game called "31" and that they must survive the next 12 hours in order to win. They are then pursued by a group of grotesque killers.
Yep folks, that's the entire story. A group of people who we don't know who they are get kidnapped by another group of people who we don't know who they are (but we do know that they are dressed in Victorian garb complete with powdered wigs) and then a bunch of murders happen. It's as if Zombie got fed up with critics saying that his movies were nothing but violence, so he decided to make a movie which was nothing but violence. There is no character development at all here. Again, the group in the RV talks about a carnival, but I certainly didn't see one, and that's all that we learn about them. We assume that the group controlling "31" are rich, elite snobs, but we only assume this because we've seen similar things in other movies. Zombie clearly thinks that he's being clever with the killers who are dispatched to kill the main characters, but they are simply a hodge-podge which are either generic or needlessly offensive. (Really? A little person dressed like Hitler? And he speaks Spanish? That's pointless, confusing, and revolting all rolled into one. And yet, it's still boring.)
As if we've done something wrong, Zombie unleashes this 102-minute movie on us, and most will be pressed to state the movies raison d'etre. We certainly aren't here for the characters, as we learn nothing about them. We can't be here for the dialogue, as it's like Zombie cranked up a random word generator and then inserted random profanity. It's certainly not for the acting, which ranges from wooden to more wooden. No, those who are truly interested in 31 will show up for the promise of zany violence, but the movie disappoints there as well. Given the extreme brutality exhibited in The Devil's Rejects and Halloween II, one would expect Zombie to go for broke here. And while this is certainly no Disney movie, the murders are mostly stabbings and some of the kills occur off-screen. Even the "demented" killers lack any sort of edge.
For all of its many sins, the worst part of 31 may be just how unoriginal it is. The movie plays like a combination of The Purge, Running Man, and any slasher movie. There is no suspense here and the action is dull. The whole affair comes across as rather pointless, and one gets the feeling that Zombie simply made a movie for the sake of making a movie. Hopefully this will be his last movie for a while. Maybe a break will allow him to come up with some interesting and/or original ideas.
31 is an equal opportunity offender on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, despite some occasional grain (which is clearly intentional). Zombie has used some washed-out colors at times, but the tones look true and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth works well, and the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The level of detail is good and the image is only soft when done on purpose. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at an average of 3.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix does a fine job of highlighting the various sounds coming from around the factory setting, and we often get examples of individual sounds coming from off-screen. The "shock" moments provide palpable subwoofer effects.
The 31 Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Rob Zombie. This is followed by "In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making of 31" (131 minutes), a five-part feature-length documentary which explores the pre-production process and the 20-day shoot. This offers extensive on-set footage, in-depth interviews with Zombie and comments from the cast.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long