A Brief Review of 31 (2016)


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When I wrote a post on the films of Rob Zombie last year, I said that I skipped his most recent film, 31 (2016) because the plot summaries did not make it look like something I'd enjoy. I said I would probably see it eventually but was in no hurry to do so. I finally got around to seeing 31 last night, so I thought I'd write a brief review.

Based on what I had read about 31 when it was first released, I thought it sounded like Zombie might be going down more of a torture porn route with it. Since I don't especially care for those films, I did not expect to like 31. As it turns out, it was not that kind of film. Even though I found myself agreeing with most of the negative reviews, I have to say that I liked it better than I expected I would. Unfortunately, that isn't saying much.

The plot of 31 was about as simple as it gets. A group of carnival workers who are traveling to their next gig are abducted by masked killers and taken to a remote location. They are now toys for an odd group of privileged older people who tell them that they are going to be hunted over a specific interval of time. None are expected to survive, but if one does, they will be released. The group is provided with rudimentary weapons. They face a few waves of assorted killers as the hours tick by (i.e., when the group manages to kill one wave of killers, another follows).

If you think this sounds boring, I don't blame you. "Boring" is something I never thought I'd use to describe a Rob Zombie film, but that was the case here. While 31 delivered the gritty 70's vibe fans of Zombie's films expect and did a decent job developing the characters of the carnival workers, it did little to grab the audience's attention. It was far too derivative in ways I never would have expected from a Zombie film. The concept of a small group of people trying to survive against waves of killers reminded me too much of Cabin in the Woods, 13 Ghosts, and many other films. Part of the problem was that most of the killers in 31 really weren't that interesting, but the bigger problem was that this felt like a film I'd already seen repeatedly shot in Zombie's style.

Overall, 31 seemed like a missed opportunity. Had the carnival workers continued on their 70s road trip and found some other sort of horrific adventures to have along the way, this could have been a real gem. They were interesting characters, and the casting was solid. Instead, we ended up with something that seemed like too many better (or at least more interesting) films we've already seen.

Here's the trailer: