Friday, December 30, 2016

Don't Watch This Alone! 31

Welcome to another installment of DON'T WATCH THIS ALONE! This is the show where we talk about the latest and greatest in the world of horror, and give you something to make your skin crawl. Today, we're taking a look at a more recent entry in genre from one of its more...peculiar auteurs: Rob Zombie's return to horror, 31!

31 is a movie featuring probably one of the most memorable openings of any movie of this year. I wouldn't call it my favorite opening, but it immediately sets the film apart from anything else this year, and apart from anything in the horror genre this year, fitting for a Rob Zombie movie. As someone who, in the past, is known to be a fan of the man's work (see: my reviews of his first two films, House of 1000 Corpses and the Devil's Rejects during this year's 31 Days of Horror series), I was quite excited to see this film. But when Richard Brake as Doom-Head steps out of the darkness and delivers his chilling monologue, I was enthralled.

31 focuses on a group of traveling con artists who are selected as unwitting contestants in the sadistic game of 31. The host of this tournament, played gleefully by Malcom McDowell, informs the group that they will be hunted by sadistic killers. All they have to do is survive 12 hours and they win. From then on, it's a frantic race to avoid the litany of killers set loose and make it out alive. Who will live? Who will die? The answer to that last one is "a lot," if you couldn't already guess.

31 is probably the most Rob Zombie movie of all Rob Zombie's movies, and most of that is down to the fact that it was almost entirely crowdfunded. Without a studio to answer to and without executives breathing down his neck, Zombie was allowed to do whatever he wanted. The only thing that really hindered him was the MPAA ratings board, which forced him to edit it down from an NC-17 to an R, which does show somewhat in the editing. There's some unusual shots that feel like they were cut that way to satisfy the board, which is disappointing, but the film still manages to get across the visceral nature of the violence, the gore, and everything in between.

The cast does an all around solid job. Most of the contestants are fairly alright, with the exception of Sheri Moon-Zombie's character, who shines in the role. The real memorable roles are McDowell's character and the killers, especially Richard Blake's character. He brings so much menace to the role of the final killer, and every shot with him in it feels all the more intense. But the film is really more a showcase for Zombie's horror-circus/70's aesthetic. In that way, it feels a lot like the Devil's Rejects in tone and in the texture of the film. The film has some ridiculous sets and characters that harken back to House of 1000 Corpses, but shows how Zombie has become a better director over time and how he manages suspense and tension and action and movement far better than anything in Corpses. 

If you're a fan of Rob Zombie's work, this is a must-see. If you're not a fan of his prior work, then this will probably not convert you. It's as vulgar, as silly, and as gruesome as his prior work, so only the faithful need apply. But for those already convinced, you're in for a real treat. It's a campy romp with more blood to shake a severed limb at, and will proudly sit next to Corpses and Rejects on your shelf.

Tony's Score 8/10

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