Shaking Hands with Savages

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31 [Movie Review] (2016)



**Originally posted by me on Reddit**


The horror community is split on Rob Zombie, some call him a one trick pony, others say he is their trailer park messiah. He is polarizing to say the least and based on his filmography its easy to see why, he often doesn’t live up to his potential as a filmmaker. One thing fans and critics would at least be able to agree upon is that all his films, to a degree, possess a similar aesthetic. Do his stylistic choices dictate the quality of filmmaker that he is, and more importantly is 31 a divergence from Zombie’s signature style, or more of the same old Zombie we have grown to either tolerate or ignore?


A group of degenerates gets kidnapped by another group of degenerates and must now fight for some fancily dressed degenerates against even more deranged degenerates. Oh, and it all takes places on Halloween night, in a big abandoned factory, jinkies. It’s basically The Running Man meets some of the people you might see passed out near the porta potties at Gathering of the Juggalos, how fun.


Bring an umbrella this one is a deluge of violence, when people eat it in 31 they eat it particularly fucking hard. It’s probably the goriest Rob Zombie movie to date, and the effects are all well done. What’s particularly noteworthy about the version you will likely see right now is that it is in fact the R-rated version, as the original cut of the film was NC-17, so there’s that.

The cinematography is good and Rob Zombie proves once again that he is the king of horror-billy inspired visuals. The set designs range from standard abandoned factories to grungy circus horror inspired environs. Its not a bad film to look at and the visuals and the sounds are both crisp and clean.

The best thing about the film hands down is Doom-Head, he almost makes this film watchable, and every second he is on screen you know that something terrible is likely to happen.On screen Richard Brake’s performance oozes menace, and unlike almost every other character in the film he feels fleshed out in the sense that you are given a glimpse into his world and he feels less like a caricature as a result of it.

That sums up the positive aspects of the film, so moving on…..


The film is essentially one giant horror trope. Clowns,check. Chainsaws, check. Questionable cuisine, check. Group of walking horror archetypes, check. Abandoned factory, check. Pseudo torture porn levels of violence and cruelty, infinite checks. Folks this is a very basic movie, and no frills horror can work in the right hands but in the wrong hands it can be a tedious experience for viewers.

The writing is horrendous. The characters will routinely do dumb shit and get killed as a result of it. Let’s talk dialogue a bit, Zombie has never been one for dialogue, but you can tell that Rob wants to be horror’s Tarantino, sadly for him, the words that comes out of most of the antagonists’ mouths sound like bad gore-grind lyrics from the early 90s. Yes we get it, they want to rape corpses and commit all matter of atrocities to the bodies of their hapless victims, this does not make them appear any more scary or memorable.

The acting is about what you would expect. Sheri Moon Zombie possesses the acting range of a brain damaged seagull, and pretty much everyone else in the film were living breathing props. You will likely go through a more gripping range of emotions doing taxes than these people do witnessing brutal acts of violence whilst fighting for their lives

The tone of the film is all over the place you can’t expect your audience to be afraid of a little person dressed as a Nazi clown, it’s obnoxious, and making a central villain this ridiculous is counter intuitive to the dread this film is intending to instill. The characters you are supposed to like and sympathize with are unsympathetic, and the characters you are supposed to be afraid of are a bunch of edgy try-hards more likely to elicit chuckles than fear (except Doom-Head).


I’m not about to be the guy that starts incorporating emoji’s into his writing, but goddammit if that were a thing this entire review would be one long procession of side-eye emojis punctuated by a skull. Also, I’m beginning to suspect that Zombie’s films are simply a way to keep his wife and all their friends working.


If you literally have nothing else to do and are under the age of 24 and over the age of 70, why, because people below and above these ages have time to burn.


I tried my best to convey to you how banal this all felt to me. The movie is so middle of the road that I can guarantee an hour after watching the film you won’t remember any of the protagonists’ names. Movies shouldn’t aspire towards purposelessness, and this just felt like an elaborate exercise in unrelenting cruelty; brutality does not elicit emotion, real genuine characters can only do that, Zombie doesn’t seem to understand that violence won’t effect the audience when the characters are all essentially treated as livestock with an emphasis on the word ‘stock’. I give Zombie kudos for Lords of Salem, failure or not, he tried something different; 31 is safely nestled in the director’s comfort zone, this could have easily been called Return to the House of 1000 Corpses. 31 is one of the years worst and definitely one of the more disappointing films in what has been a surprisingly solid year for horror cinema, in other words skip it kids.


Part of me wants to really enjoy the films of Rob Zombie, he possesses talent as a filmmaker and he really does have a clear understanding of horror. House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects were both well put together films (The Devil’s Rejectsbeing the superior of the two) and the first Halloween was okay. The problem seems to be as of late he is suffering from Tim Burton syndrome, he can’t escape himself and he won’t tone down his stylistic tendencies and it makes him appear stagnant as a filmmaker, these are my views of Zombie, and only time will tell if he will progress as a filmmaker, but based on 31 all signs point to no.




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This entry was posted on December 11, 2016 by in Critique and tagged , , , , , , .


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