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31 (Blu-ray Review)

31Ever the polarizing filmmaker, one can’t deny that Rob Zombie has a distinct vision and very blunt voice in the world of cinema.  Despite whatever misgivings, like him or not, its hard to take not of his talent.  Coming from similar influences and styles, he’s almost the horror genre’s version of Quentin Tarantino.  After dabbling in the Halloween universe with Michael Myers, his last two films have gone in much smaller offerings in terms of releases. The Lords of Salem was more a festival film with a very limited release and his latest, 31 went crowd funded and launched on Amazon Prime Video (Also having a small theatrical run).  These are the times we live in, but if a filmmaker of Zombie’s caliber is still able to get his ideas across and make the film he truly wants, then I guess delivery shouldn’t be too important (Though, for me its always theater whenever I can).  So here we are, the Blu-ray release of 31.

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Film 

From the visionary mind of Rob Zombie comes the horrific story of five carnival workers who are kidnapped on Halloween and held hostage in a large compound.  At the mercy of their captors, they are forced to play a twisted game or life or death called 31.  For the next 12 hours they must fight for their lives against an endless parade of homicidal maniacs.

You’ll notice really quick that Rob Zombie has hopped back into his comfort zone with 31, after a brief side step with The Lords Of Salem.  Who knows, maybe 31 is a slight diversion before he goes in another different direction.  That wheelhouse he’s returning to is one that is littered in grit, filthy language and discussion, 70s music and the overall low budget grindhouse vibe of the films of that era.  This time around its a vicious game of death between carnies and killer clowns.

The film’s idea isn’t novel, but its one that gets to be done both very well and then overdone.  It opens strong with a great monologue by Richard Brake as he taunts a priest.  However, these kinds of discussions and preachings Zombie seems to be far to attached and interested in and sort of begin to plague the film to a bit of an eyerolling nature.  31 is strong because of a few of these, but is weakened when you start having every little turn include one of them.

Now, this film is a violent and bloody one.  But, there were moments that I found surprising to shy away from some turns of action in parts.  Where we would have a swing and a cut.  A lot of the blood is on aftermath or effects of something that happened.  It is pretty gross with some of it.  Richard Brake has a nice gross look to him including the blood which, I’m sure in a much wider release, may have seen it be used as a popular Halloween costume or cosplay at conventions.

There’s something that Zombie has found in his last two films and that’s on screen chemistry between his wife and actor Jeff Daniel Phillips.  In Lords of Salem they found a good relationship going strong and it carries over here into this film.  As a matter of fact, Sheri Moon Zombie is very good here in this film, probably one of her strongest performances.  I know she’s a point of controversy in terms of people liking her and not, but I don’t think she’s even close to that debate here.

31 isn’t a film that’s going to win over any previous Zombie detractors.  Its very much in The Devil’s Rejects and first Halloween spirit and stylings.  If you like Rob Zombie, here’s his new one, plain and simple.  As someone who is a fan of the Superbeast and his Living Dead Girl, I found 31 to be simply okay and a neat little return to what we’ve seen before, but I’m looking forward to whatever his next chapter is.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  The film starts out with a super crisp, razor sharp close up on Richard Brake as he gives a speech.  Its incredibly ripe with details.  The majority of the movie is in color and takes on a very dingy and dirty 1970s appearance.  There is a grainy look to the film but still details are able to make their way through on characters, clothing and surfaces.

Depth:  31 features a decent amount of dimensions in its image.  Good spacing between an actor and their environment with smooth, cinematic-like movements.  Background detail is pretty good for whatever the camera focus will allow.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and accent some good shadow, shading and definition of the characters and the like.  Grain is a hint heavier in dark spots.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong and bold, with a lifelike or 70s cinema/art look.  Blood is, of course, a bright red highlight.  Other colors manage to pull through with some impressive whites, blues and yellows into the mix.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones keep a little warmer appearance and manage consistency throughout the film’s duration. There are some scenes with different lighting schemes that will make it different for that portion.  Facial features are very impressive from most distances looking at make-up, lip texture, freckles, wrinkles, blood splatter, stubble and more.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean with a nice layer of grain.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: 31 is a little old school by going 5.1, but that’s all the film really needs.  It has a good, crisp and clean mix that accentuates effects and vocals with good detail.  There is a healthy and impressive blend of Zombie’s weaving songs through the mix to go with the actions and discussions.  Overall this mix gives good, layered nuances and really loud, discomforting horror and action to the mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer does good with some musical numbers as well as thumping when there is a struggle or a weapon is clanging on something.  Engines also provide some rattle and hum as they vibrate onward.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There are some neat moments in this mix that give some unique sounds and pieces to the ambiance in the rear speakers.  A lot of the focus is on the front that does great with motion back and forth and distance volume.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is very crisp and clear, so much that you can hear mouth smacking, saliva sliding and much more when a character speaks.

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Extras 

31 comes with an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Rob Zombie

In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making Of 31 (HD, 2:11:27) – A 5-part featuring length documentary on making the film.  Those familiar with Rob Zombie’s home video releases know how in depth and hands-on these are.

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Summary 

31 finds Rob Zombie returning to a more familiar look and feel with his 6th live action outing.  Its an entertaining stroll if you’re a fan of his.  This Blu-ray features some terrific audio and video quality with its goopy, bloody presentation.  The extras may appear light, but lets not forget that one is a documentary on making it that is longer than the film and the other is a featuring length commentary.  That’s about 4 hours of material right there, I think we’re fine.  If you’re a Rob Zombie fan or like grisly 70s throwback horror, you really should pick this one up at a decent low price.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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