31 – 2016

Written and Directed by Rob Zombie
Starring  Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, Richard Brake, Malcolm McDowell, Judy Geeson, Jane Carr, E.G. Daily, Lew Temple

When I found out that Rob Zombie was making a new movie, my interest was piqued. His track record following the Tarantino formula with an emphasis on horror has been delivering diminishing returns since his high-water mark of The Devil’s Rejects. Still, it hadn’t diminished all that much until now.

Discovering that Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs brought a smile, inasmuch as no one can think back on his character Washington on Welcome Back Kotter. Who on that show doesn’t bring back a smile? Okay, yeah, I don’t like Horshack either and then to have his doppelganger Michael Weiner bulge onto the Twitter scene over the last 5 years hasn’t helped either. But I digress…It’s Washington, man!  Rob Zombie remembers the same guys we remember…and makes them victims (or survivors) of his films, just like his more successful auteur counterpart.

My hopes for this film started to drain the moment I heard Hilton-Jacobs faux Jamaican accent. Why oh why do they ever let that accent into any movie that doesn’t take place in the Caribbean? Hell, I even hated it in the third Johnny Depp opus. It’s something that should be discouraged at all points. No one likes the approximation of someone who calls pot ganja less than this reviewer. So much for that reunion with the past. How soon till they kill him off?

In essence, this story is a combination of Hostel and  House of 1000 Corpses. A caravan of minstrel carnies travelling through middle-America get kidnapped on October 31. Some of them wake up tied in the middle of some large, forgotten factory turned into a murder house. They are eloquently explained the rules of their plight, called 31, by a 3 white-wigged Brits. They have to survive 12 hours of pursuit by one (or two) psycho after another. They are told the odds of their survival before they begin. Why this game is being run by snobby sounding Brits in the middle of the U.S. is never explained. Come on, though, who do we hate more than snobby Brits? Especially if one of them (MacDowell) endured A Clockwork Orange.

Who survives should be obvious if you see the pressers for the movie. What we are here for is inventiveness. That inventiveness is not up to Zombie’s standards. We see bats with nails in them, axes, knives, chainsaws and plenty of Nazi references. It’s all underwhelming compared to where we’ve been with Rob Zombie in the past.

The cast, including Foster, Daniel Phillips, Jackson and especially wife Sheri Moon Zombie are all game for what’s in store. I have come to expect a lot out of  Moon Zombie through these films. What she lacks in range she more than makes up for with intensity. Richard Brake is the Bill Moseley of this film, with all of the foul words, grossness and evil intensity. He’s alright, but he really doesn’t do much more than spout Zombie’s attempts at cleverly sadistic dialogue. In the end, someone being murderously pursued just can’t care about long-winded diatribes at the end of a knife.

So, yeah, Zombie’s off a bit with this one. By the end, we’re more annoyed than scared about what happened. We’re given an ambiguous final shot that inspires nothing more than a sigh. He can do better, and he’ll no doubt have a few more chances.

(**1/2 out of *****)



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