Thursday, October 27, 2016

Film Review: 31 (2016)

31 (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: VUDU
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review

"The good outweighs the bad — by a little."

A group of carnival workers are kidnapped and forced to play a game of 31, where the participants must survive twelve hours in a locked compound against a band of killer clowns...

I loved the concept for this film. Unfortunately, the execution isn't great. The plot follows a generic cast of Rob Zombie characters – despicable, vulgar people. Their characteristics didn't really bother me, I don't mind despicable characters in my stories, but it does feel by-the-books for Zombie — almost like he's simple recycling characters. Anyway, these characters are kidnapped. They awaken in a bizarre compound and forced to play a game of 31 – captives vs. clowns, basically. That's about all you really get from the plot, though. It doesn't really develop anything, including its characters or its game. It doesn't even have a definitive set of rules. It just follows the same formula over and over: enter an area, fight clowns, someone is hurt/killed, enter an area, fight clowns, someone is hurt/killed, and so on. It also feels disjointed – the pieces don't link. It all leads to a predictable ending. Admit it, you know who's going to be the last survivor.

Still, 31 is an entertaining slasher. It brings you into this grungy world filled with violence and sex – in a Rob Zombie fashion, of course. It creates a game of mayhem that hooked me from the beginning – remember, I really love this concept. The captives are generic and forgettable, but many of the clowns are creative and interesting – or, perhaps quirky is a better term for some of the villains. Doom-head, played by Richard Brake, immediately comes to mind. The brutality also leaves an impression. However, this is another area where the film often fails. The shaky camera and unnecessary close-ups often spoil the mayhem in this film. You can hear everything and it feels frantic, but you can't see it, which is disappointing and often disorienting. On top of that, the film is often lacking in suspense.

The acting is hit-or-miss here. Again, this is a Rob Zombie movie, so we already know Sheri Moon Zombie is in this. Sheri is often decent, especially when she's simply talking, but she can't perform when the role becomes demanding. She just doesn't sound genuine – she's stiff and unnatural when she's not playing Baby. Richard Brake is great, though, delivering a memorable performance. Malcolm McDowell isn't utilized to his full potential, but he's solid, too. Usually, Zombie films are very stylish. This film captures that 70s vibe, but the cinematography and camerawork are barely decent. The music, original and licensed, was good, though. Rob Zombie writes and directs. The film is a hit-or-miss experience in both departments. It feels like a half-assed project — like it's missing heart and soul. It's still entertaining, but it could have been better if Zombie gave it his all.

Overall, 31 is a good movie. I bashed it quite a bit in this review, but I ultimately enjoyed it – I can't lie about that. The good outweighs the bad — by a little. However, it is disappointing considering the potential of the film. If you like Rob Zombie, this might be worth your time. It's not as good as The Devil's Rejects or even the Halloween remake, but it's not bad.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, sex and nudity.

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