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Rob Zombie
Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs
Writing Credits:
Rob Zombie

Five carnival workers are kidnapped and held hostage in an abandoned, Hell-like compound where they are forced to participate in a violent game, the goal of which is to survive twelve hours against a gang of sadistic clowns.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 12/20/2016

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rob Zombie
• “In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn” Documentary
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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31 [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 12, 2016)

Originally known as a moderately successful rock musician, Rob Zombie transitioned to moderately successful horror director with 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses. Zombie hit his commercial peak with the $58 million take by 2007 remake of Halloween.

Of Zombie’s other five films, only 2009’s Halloween II managed to pass the $30 million barrier. When we last saw Zombie, he released 2013’s Lords of Salem, a financial dud that narrowly passed the $1 million mark.

2016’s 31 represents Zombie’s latest release, and it fared even less well than Salem. The movie barely received a theatrical exhibition, and it wound up with a gross of only $779,820.

I can’t claim that Zombie’s other flicks did much for me, but hope springs, as they say, so even with its brutal box office performance, I decided to give 31 a gander. Set on Halloween 1976, a few traveling carnival employees find themselves under assault.

Some of the carnies get killed along the way, and five survivors become captives. Taken to a remote location called “Murderworld”, they get put through a game called “31” in which they need to survive for 12 hours against sadistic nutbags dressed as clowns.

On the surface, that plot offers intrigue. While not wholly original, it gives us an interesting survival scenario, one packed with options that could make it violent but exciting.

Does Zombie manage to exploit the story’s potential? Nope – not in the slightest. Instead, he creates a barely coherent collection of violent escapades with no drama or tension involved.

That’s largely because we never care the slightest about the characters. In an obvious nod toward the original 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the first act sticks us on a drive with the carnival crew packed into an RV. We get to know the various participants as they travel to their next gig.

In theory, this semi-extended introduction allows us to bond with the folks who will soon find themselves in a struggle for survival, but Zombie shows zero ability to create sympathetic characters. This opening instead makes the carnies seem obnoxious and borderline loathsome, traits that essentially make it impossible for the audience to connect with any of them.

Without that form of viewer investment, the movie never musters any tension. We only feel anxious if we fret for the characters’ survival, so if we don’t care what happens to them, the action lacks drama.

It doesn’t help that 31 never feels like a real narrative. Essentially Zombie takes a slew of super-violent vignettes and connects them via a loose “survival game” thread. No development occurs, so again, we never care what happens, and this makes the life or death circumstances uninvolving.

Zombie tends to give the whole thing a music video patina. He frames many of the shots in a hyper-stylized way that shows a patina of grit but never turns into anything effective. Zombie concentrates far too much on style and not nearly enough on substance.

That remains the biggest problem with 31: it just never offers anything to allow the viewer to invest in the proceedings. It provides many dull moments punctuated by splashes of extreme violence, and those to becomes sufficient to maintain attention across 103 minutes.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

31 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently positive presentation.

Sharpness came across well. Occasional interiors demonstrated a smidgen of softness, but not to a major degree, so most of the flick appeared accurate and concise. I saw no jaggies or moiré effects, and unintentional print flaws were absent. A few elements went for a fake “aged” appearance, but those were infrequent and not an issue.

In terms of palette, 31 started with an arid, bleached sensibility, but that changed when the “game” started. At that point, teal dominated, with some orange and yellow involved as well. The colors seemed appropriately developed. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed clear and smooth. I thought the transfer worked fine.

I also felt pleased with the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, though I can’t claim it excelled. Much of the material concentrated on environment, as the film lacked many moments that made compelling use of the channels.

Still, the track balanced well and created a good sense of the various settings. We got some nice localized speech and enough action to add involvement to the package. Music also used the speakers nicely and gave a boost to the soundtrack.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech seemed concise and distinctive, while music was full and dynamic. Effects showed good accuracy and clarity. Though never an especially memorable soundtrack, the mix suited the movie.

Two prominent extras show up here, and the first presents an audio commentary with writer/director Rob Zombie. He provides a running, screen-specific look at photography and editing, cast and performances, story/character areas, visual design, stunts, action and effects, sets and locations, music and related areas.

Overall, Zombie offers an engaging and informative track. He touches on all the expected topics and does so in a chatty manner. Zombie ensures we get a nice overview in this good discussion.

A documentary called In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn runs two hours, 11 minutes and 27 seconds. It includes remarks from Zombie, costume designer Carrie Grace, makeup special effects designer Wayne Toth, editor Glenn Garland, cinematographer David Daniel, production designer Rodrigo Cabral, assistant director Gabriel Williams, stunt coordinator Steve Dunlevy, producer Mike Elliott, “A” camera operator BJ McConnell, composer John 5, and actors Gabriel Pimentel, Torsten Voges, Jane Carr, Pancho Moler, Meg Foster, Kevin Jackson, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Richard Brake, Jeff Daniel Phillips, David Ury, Dan Roebuck, Andrea Dora and Esperanza America.

Through “Popcorn”, we look at locations, makeup, wardrobe and props, casting and performances, cinematography, music, stunts and action, effects, editing, and Zombie’s overall impact on the film.

Despite the number of participants who comment on the movie, Zombie dominates those interviews – and even he doesn’t speak all that often. Instead, “Popcorn” acts much more as a production diary. It follows the shoot in chronological order and consists largely of “fly on the wall” material.

This technique works fairly well. I admit I’d prefer a more traditional documentary that concentrated more on interviews, but we learn a fair amount from Zombie and the others. The footage of the production gives us nice glimpses of the shoot and help make this a pretty good program.

The disc opens with ads for Blair Witch, The Devil’s Rejects, Cell, Knock Knock, and Cooties. No trailer for 31 appears here.

Will fans of Rob Zombie’s style of hyper-violent horror enjoy 31? Maybe, but the movie leaves the rest of us out in the cold, as it lacks any of the necessary components to become a compelling experience. The Blu-ray brings us satisfying picture and audio as well as some informative bonus materials. Perhaps someday Zombie will make a good movie, but 31 isn’t it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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