The Movie When Rob Zombie’s latest white-trash Hot Topic horror show, 31, hit theaters, we ran two reviews. Jessica gave it a thorough going over, and then Adam came in with a two sentence summation. Both give you pretty much everything you need to know when going into this film. In general, here at Psycho Drive-In try not to bash films in reviews (individual writers with columns have free rein to trash at will), especially for lower budget affairs. We understand the difficulties of getting an indie horror film made so we try to emphasize the good when we can, and when we can’t say something nice, we don’t say anything at all. Larger budget releases are a different beast. While the productions may still be chaotic and completed under nightmare conditions and studio interference, if you have a multi-million dollar budget wasted on bolstering Hollywood egos and pushing corporate profits, we’ll tear you a new asshole with glee. 31 falls somewhere in the middle, as far as how much respect we want to give what is a decidedly lackluster end result. It’s maybe too easy to criticize the film’s shortcomings, especially as the biggest and most damaging problem is the script/story itself. It’s an idea so basic and boring that one might come up with something similar while taking a dump in the morning. And the final product that appears on-screen bears very little relation to the original ideas Zombie began with (according to the Blu-ray extras, discussed below), and much of the script seemed to have been used more as a skeleton than as an actual source. It’s just a really simple idea that can be written off most positively as creative laziness, and more negatively as a cynical fleecing of his fans. I don’t think it’s a fleecing. More than anything, 31 seems to be the product of creative exhaustion in the face of the commercialized road mainstream horror has taken over the past decade. This is an idea that could be mined for amazing satire or frustrated anger if the script was up to the challenge. And this script isn’t up for any sort of challenge. The dialogue, where it’s actually scripted, is atrocious and the actors are hamstrung for most of the film. The occasional ad libs tend to work better, and when the actors are allowed to experiment and interact, the performances aren’t bad. Our villains get all the best bits, of course, with Richard Brake doing everything he can to make the stupidly named Doom-Head something scary, artistic, and sadistically violent. Pancho Moler, as the equally stupidly named Sick-Head, also shines as a Spanish-speaking Nazi Murder Clown. The other clown-inspired killers are forgettable (although Death-Head and Sex-Head, Torsten Voges and Elizabeth Daily are at least visually appealing). The ringmasters of the annual 31 contest (a purge-like murderfest in what appears to be an abandoned factory), Malcolm McDowell (Father Murder), Jane Carr (Sister Serpent), and Judy Geeson (Sister Dragon) do the best they can with their 2 days on-set, and McDowell proves that he can read cue cards better than most people can act with months of prep. Our heroes, a group of carnies with no discernible carnival, are almost to a character horribly written. The only performances worth mentioning are Kevin Jackson’s Levon, Jeff Daniel Phillips’s Roscoe, and Meg Foster’s Venus – and of these three, Meg Foster shines the brightest, bringing a surprising compassion balanced by violent heroism to the role. In a just world, Foster would be the lead surviving until the end instead of getting written out in what is the most pathetic death of the entire group. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Panda does what he can, but that’s not much. And the less said about Sheri Moon Zombie’s performance, the better. The real stars of this film (aside from Foster) are David Daniel’s cinematography, Kevin Houlihan’s art direction, and Siobhan O’Brien’s set decoration. They get every cent of value from the budget, crafting the thing on the fly and making it look like there’s a good film in here somewhere. The way they stage scenes makes great use of the found locations and the excellent use of light and shadow both contribute to this film’s tagline, “Death is the only escape,” not being used as a pun in this review. Actually, 31 might be best enjoyed with the sound off and accompanied by your favorite Halloween music on your stereo. The Disc The 31 Blu-ray is an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. What does that mean? It’s high-quality and looks pretty damn good throughout, despite a lot of the film being shot in low-light. The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and, again, sounds pretty damn good throughout. So, if nothing else, at least the film looks and sounds like a top-of-the-line piece of work. Rob Zombie Commentary: Zombie, as usual, is intelligent, well-spoken, and honest about the technical and scheduling difficulties of a 20-day shoot with very little money. I’d almost suggest only watching this film to listen to the commentary. In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making of 31 (2:11:27): Clocking in at a solid half-hour longer than the feature, this Making Of documentary has aspirations for greatness that the film itself couldn’t hope to achieve. As with Zombie’s commentary track, I’d almost suggest foregoing the film and just watching this; particularly if you’re more interested in the journey than the destination. This documentary from filmmaker Josh Hasty covers every single day of the 20-day shoot and gives a very detailed look at the making of a low-budget horror film. To be honest, calling a film with an estimated 1.5 million dollar budget low-budget bothers me (although, most of that was crowd-funded, so there’s that). As far as studio films go, sure, that’s low, but there are great films being made for a pittance that few people get to see because they don’t get wide distribution, or go straight to video and are ignored. So, while I applaud Zombie and his cast and crew for getting 31 made under what are obviously constraints from their perspective, it’s a fairly mercenary production with very little heart, recycling, as it does, so many ideas and tropes from previous Rob Zombie productions. I’m not even sure why the film was made, other than just to do it. There are moments during this documentary where Zombie seems tired, but practical when it comes to evaluating his own work. To paraphrase, it’s a miracle any film gets made at all, given all the problems and potential disasters on every film set, so at the end of the day you just have to trust your instincts and hope you’ve got a good movie. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really end up being the case here. See larger image 31 [Blu-ray + Digital HD] Still sealed; will ship in 1-2 days guaranteed! D17 New From: $10.49 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Advance Review: Blair Witch (2016) Blu-ray - Psycho Drive-In January 2, 2017 […] Advance Review: 31 (2016) Blu-ray […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.