HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:74
I find it incredibly amusing that the bad guys are running around with clown makeup on for the entire run time of the film. This comes right after months of social media warning us about people dressed up in clown suits around the country trying to scare us. There’s a good section of the populace who actually ARE creeped out (if not downright scared) of the hellish looks that clowns can emanate, especially after they’ve been so demonized in horror movies. I mean, a decade hasn’t gone by without at least one or two films where a clown runs around with a knife trying to slice and dice young innocents. Or maybe wrap them up in cotton candy and imprison them on their spaceship (the hilarious comedy that is “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”). So you can be sure I got a chuckle out of Rob Zombie’s little take on the clown genre so soon after the national “clown scare”.
“31” follows a basic premise. It’s the time tested theory of “hunt them down till only one survives”. We follow a group of 5 carnival workers (nicknamed carnies for future reference) in the mid 70s as they travel to their next gig. These guys are your typical carnies too. Foul, sleazy, greasy and rather nasty sounding to boot. The rather unlikeable group stops off in some po dunk town to gas up on Halloween and are targeted by a group of psychopaths who kidnap the group and dump them in some dark underground compound. It seems that this is a yearly event (the opening bit at the beginning is actually from the year before, but that isn’t actually obvious until you listen to Zombie’s commentary. Something which actually had me puzzled for a bit), where a bunch of aristocratic people (with Malcom McDowell as their ringleader) have themselves a little game.
This “game” consists of taking innocent victims (last year it was a priest and his associates) and dumping them deep in the compound, then unleashing psychopathic killers covered in differing clown makeup on them as hunters. Then they bet upon the odds of who actually makes it out alive, who dies the soonest etc. This is of course is not as easy as it sounds. The 5 carnies have a chance at survival, as they’ve been given crude weapons, but there is a seemingly unending supply of crazed killers that the powers that be have at their disposal. Knife wielding midgets, chainsaw carrying redneck brothers, a pair of German nutjobs, and their ace in the whole. A maniac by the name of Doom Head (Richard Brake, hamming it up to the nth degree), who has never lost a game yet.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87290[/img]Rob Zombie is an interesting guy. He cut his teeth on this sort of sleazy stuff, but he also has made some genre changes along the way too. He dabbled a bit with the “Halloween” remakes (which were actually pretty good), and then he also made a sort of “festival” film with “The Lords of Salem” a few years back. It wasn’t the greatest film of his career, but surprisingly interesting and definitely a change of pace for the eccentric film maker and musician. “31” is more of a return to form with original exploitation style of horror film making. More in the vein of films like “House of a 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects”, “31” is a splatter fest from beginning to end. Gore, blood, and nasty sleaze just emanate from the picture. Zombie has a knack for making everything feel like (I hate to say it) white trash. EVERYTHING, from the language to the situations, to the clothing just makes the viewer feel dirty and violated just from watching. The characters are complete slime bags (despite being the “heroes”) and it makes you feel like you’re watching the worst that the world has to offer. The dialog is the same way. Foulness for the lake of resting in the gutter, although it DOES fit the sleaziness and low brow quality of the characters themselves. However it is a bit of an acquired taste (one that I’ve never truly been able to acquire).
He still likes to insert his wife, Sheri Moon, into all of his films. Something that has been a bone of contention for fans for quite some time. Personally, I think it’s one of those love it or hate situations. You appreciate him putting his wife in there or you just roll your eyes. Ironically she actually does her best work yet and has put some decent effort into acting classes it seems. Nothing great, but still leaps and bounds better than she was in “The Devil’s Rejects”. The one that I really do like is that she’s got some great chemistry with actor Jeff Daniel Phillips due to them working the last few films together, and Rob Zombie wisely pairs the two of them up together again. Something which adds a little nuance to the straight forward slasher.
Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87298[/img]“31” is a very VERY dark and grungy film. Like most of Rob Zombie’s works, the film shooting style looks as sleazy and greasy as the characters do. I can’t tell if it was digital or film (my research pulls up nothing), but it’s a good looking transfer that’s intentionally rather murky and dim. Shadow detail is pretty good, but there is some crush going on and a little bit of mosquito noise or grain interferes here and there. Fine detail is still rather good, with blood, guts and dirt encrusted hair looking disgustingly nice (pun intended) and contrast levels appear to be maintained rather nicely. Colors are a bit on the dull side, with reds and blues taking most of the color spectrum in the dark compound. Some of the more garish and hellishly lit oranges and browns show up in the puppet master’s lair, but the rest of the movie is just splashes of color amidst the darkness down below.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87306[/img]The Rob Zombie laden imagery of “31” may be a bit grungy, but the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is more than capable of holding its own. The opening introduction to the carnies is a bit front heavy, but once the 5 men and women wake up underground things get creepily active real fast. There is quite an array of sonic queues that move directionally around the sound field and fill the echoey compound with all sorts of activity. Chainsaws tearing things up, blood and guts being strewn around with sloppy and goopy sound effects and the score flows nicely throughout the chaos and destruction. LFE is appropriately weighty and adds some nice impact sounds with bats, chains, slamming doors and the like. Zombie loves to make his films sound oppressive and claustrophobic, which adds a good bit of intensity to the film itself.
• In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making of 31 Documentary
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rob Zombie
“31” is a bit nonsensical in reality. Even Rob Zombie jokes about several of the head scratchers in the commentary. Especially the pontificating done by Richard Brake. The opening monologue at the beginning was great, but Zombie spent so much time smearing Brake’s psychobabble over the entire film that the shine on it wore off quickly. If you like Zombie’s previous works like “The Devil’s Rejects” then you’ll probably be entertained. He certainly has a visual style that is unmatched, however newbies might want to be a little more cautious as his “hillbilly slashers” are a bit of acquired taste and appeal more to real gore hounds than anyone else. “31” sports good video, great audio, and while there are only two extras on the disc, they’re rather impressive ones at that. Definitely a low rental in my opinion.
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Brake
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 102 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 20th, 2016
Buy 31 on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Low Rental
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