Rob Zombie's 31

Set in 1975, 31 zeroes in on five people kidnapped in the days leading up to Halloween. They are brought to a place called Murder World where they must fight for their survival by playing a deadly game called 31. To win, the ‘contestants’ must kill their opponents over a 12-hour period. Their adversaries are comprised of a group of sadistic killer clowns.

Rob Zombie is very hit or miss for me. I like House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects but I haven’t really connected with any of his other projects. I’ve seen every one of his films but those are the only two that I’ve really enjoyed. As such, I had tempered expectations going into 31. I ultimately didn’t hate it but I was also certainly not a big fan.

To say that 31 is full of some of the most bizarre imagery I’ve seen dance before my eyes  in recent memory would be an understatement. The scene with a Spanish-Speaking little person dressed as mini Hitler is arguably not even the weirdest occurrence in the film’s first sixty-minutes.

The very same gritty aesthetic that has featured in every one of Zombie’s live action feature films is on prominent display here. 31 looks like a lost product of the mid to late ’70s but without the same level of charm that would undoubtedly accompany such a specimen if it were to be newly uncovered and dusted off.

31 stars Richard Brake (Ray Donovan), Sheri Moon Zombie (Lords of Salem), Lew Temple (Devil’s Rejects), Lawrence Hilton Jacobs (Otis), and Malcolm McDowell. I can understand that Zombie sees his wife as something of a muse but I think his insistence upon casting her in everything he makes is not the best move for his directorial career. Sheri Moon Zombie is slightly more tolerable in this than she has been in some of her previous appearances in her husband’s pictures but that’s not necessarily saying a whole lot. She may be one of the more relatable characters in this particular outing but no one (including her) is particularly easy to identify with. The villains are absolutely insufferable but the protagonists aren’t much better.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs’s overacting (which was undoubtedly encouraged by Zombie) is  often too much to take and Meg Foster’s perpetually detached portrayal of her character makes it nearly impossible to care about her fate.

31 is a picture that could have been much more watchable if its writer/director had been less concerned with pushing boundaries and had worked a little harder on making his characters less obnoxious and alienating to his audience.

Zombie submitted the film to the MPAA at least three time before escaping the dreaded NC-17 classification. But he eventually succeeded in securing an R-rating and says he doesn’t feel that he had to compromise his vision. I suspect that the director probably made the film much more violent than he even wanted in anticipation of having to make cuts and negotiate with the MPAA because the R-rated version is plenty brutal. Often much more brutal than it needs to be. It’s full of the bizarre and excessive violence that has become his trademark but after seeing the same themes repeated in so many of his pictures, the shock value has worn off and its much less impressive than it was the first time or two.

31 is available on DVD and Blu-Ray as of December 20, 2016 from LionsGate Home Entertainment. Special features on the DVD and Blu-ray release include a behind-the-scenes documentary and audio commentary with the director. The digital HD release comes with a four-hour behind-the-scenes documentary that includes two additional hours of footage not featured on the DVD or Blu-ray releases.

WICKED RATING: 3/10

Director(s): Rob Zombie 
Writer(s): Rob Zombie
Stars:  Richard Brake, , Sheri Moon Zombie, Lew Temple, and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs
Release: December 20, 2016 DVD and Blu
Studio/ Production Co: Bow and Arrow Entertainment, PalmStar Media, Protagonist Pictures
Budget: $1.5 Million (Estimated)
Language: English
Length: 102-Minutes
Sub-Genre: Torture