31 full movie review - Despite Rob Zombie's best dialog and his best effort, this film feels watered down and very incoherent
Rob Zombie has become synonymous with the horror genre over the past decade. From House of 1000 Corpses to The Lords of Salem, Zombie has solidified himself as a household name right around Halloween time.
Whether it'd be The Devil's Rejects or the Halloween remakes, you've heard of his name, you've more than likely seen his films, and whether or not you like him, you know what he does. So when you hear that Rob Zombie is doing a film about a bunch of circus performers who are kidnapped by a band of psychotic killers and forced to play a cat and mouse game called 31 on Halloween night for survival, you can imagine exactly what Rob Zombie has in store for us. Unfortunately, our imaginations are left running rampant especially after seeing the final product. The film leaves you feeling uninspired and very empty, all in the worst way possible. Sure, The Devil's Rejects left me feeling empty but that was because I was so scared and frightened by that film that there was nothing else left to feel. Mostly every film that Rob Zombie has done, I've ended up really liking just for the mere fact that the man is extremely dedicated to getting the 1970s right on screen. He succeeds every single time. There isn't a filmmaker working today that can submerge you into a time period like Rob Zombie does. The clothes, the environment, the people, the sounds, and even the camera work. He does a brilliant job at period pieces in the 70s. 31 is no exception. Despite this attention to detail, the film is a whole other beast, one with a couple good points and many bad points. First, let's start off with the bad and get that out of the way. First off, the biggest problem I had with the film was the camera work. The cinematography was so lackluster and amateur that it lacked any sort of punch when watching. The violence came and went without any real repercussions from it, no reverberation like The Devil's Rejects and no overt gore like House of 1000 Corpses. It just happened and it happens through the eyes of a very shaky cameraman. The film felt more of a Bourne film than this summer's abysmal Jason Bourne. It didn't allow for you to take in what had just happened and leaves you wondering whether you are ready to see a horror film or a hand-to-hand action film. It doesn't fit very well with the style of Rob Zombie and, at the end of the day, it hurts the film especially when you couple it with an erratic editing pattern which leads me into my next gripe. The film is very hard to keep track of. Much like the killers trying to find their victims in the film, our eyes are trying to find just what the hell is going on in the frame. Through the scenes of chaos and violence, we're left with incoherent editing choices along with lackluster camera work that borders on the edge of looking and feeling like a found footage horror film without the idiotic leads looking directly at us. It really made for a frustrating and headache inducing watch. The film also felt extremely watered down. I know that Rob Zombie has had his battles with the MPAA but this felt as though it was his most watered down venture yet. We see glimpses of knives piercing a stomach...no blood. We see a bat being bashed into someone's head in, minimal blood. We see a chainsaw death, blood spattering the floor and then close shots of the actors. This is a Rob Zombie film and, like I said above, I want some Rob Zombie gore and I simply didn't get it. He said it was going to be his most brutal film and this theatrical cut ended up being his most tame. While I will most certainly give 31's "Unrated" cut a watch to see what I was missing out on, I still hold this film in a bit of contempt over that. The performances here are lackluster as well. Sherri Moon Zombie gives a notable performance but nothing out of the realm of what she is already used to doing. It isn't bad but it isn't necessarily good. The horror icon Meg Foster also delivers a very good and surprisingly nuanced performance in the film as well. However, the main villain Doomhead is the real stand out. Actor Richard Brake is tremendous in this film. He is terrifying, funny and completely watchable as he delivers some of the best lines of Rob Zombie's career as a writer. He is full convincing as a psychopath in most films but this film, he truly looks and feels like he is a real, genuine psychopath and it makes for a great time watching him. The first scene of the film is Richard Brake, the camera and us for a long and thoroughly engrossing four minute monologue that feels of early Tarantino. It is a great opening scene and really gets you excited to see the film but leaves you even more disappointed when you discover that the film is nothing like the opening scene. Overall, I felt let down by 31. I wanted more gore, I wanted more coherency, I just wanted more and I feel like the film that I saw was half of the original vision that Rob Zombie had. Whether or not we will ever get to see a different cut is up in the air as of right now but it really does feel more like a missed opportunity than anything else. Despite these feelings, 31 does feature some great set designs, a great performance from Richard Brake and some truly wonderful lines of dialog from Rob Zombie. If you're a fan of Zombie's work, check out the film, you might like it. If not, skip it.