Directed by 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.
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★★★★★ review by nathaxnne walker (semi-hiatus) on Letterboxd
There was an interregnum, a period between what had been and what wasn't quite yet, when collapsed revolution collapsed into hedonistic gratification and withdrawal and an inner-focused mysticism or the hardened, militarized fragments of effort at collective action and things felt increasingly adrift like there wasn't a driver or a captain or a steward. This was an incorrect assumption and we don't need those things anyway. It was still the early days of the Counterrevolution, which lasted a long, long time and didn't so much collapse on its own as much as it achieved its ends which, as ends generally are, are insupportable because there is nothing after them. But that is a different story. So what happened back then, and this is critical, is that the collapse itself collapsed and into what? From where did all this go in the time after those times, when post-hippie narcissism wilted under the very real insight that the self is neither interesting nor actually extant, when getting high and getting off become mechanical, compulsive, evacuative of real joy or further peaks of excitement? When violence becomes unleashed from any immediate etiology and turns into a suffocating atmosphere of crushed glass, endlessly inhaled and exhaled? When the dopamine runs its course, when even the norepinephrine runs its course and there is nothing left in the frayed, buzzing circuits that make up what used to be pleasure/reward and even the kinda sick, kinda metallic and self-digusted anxiety that follows, when there is a kind of numbed-out sardonic glare which ends up just watching because doing is too much and it has all been done, but there is an acceptance of pretty much anything as long as it is either novel or close enough to novel or sufficiently pungent to break or excitedly dismay the kind of palate left under a thick patina of rotting (in)organic matter of tooth-residue, mercury poisoning, mucus and blood and saliva. These are the New Kicks but in their exhaustion-before-it-starts, their weary decadence that can't even take pleasure in itself, what fills the space among other things is a broad but mostly shallow fascination with Weimar Germany, when the Democratic Government was itself collapsing but the Nazi's hadn't gotten really boring yet, amphetamines, black leather, pancake makeup, the failure of monetary policy, the promise of the ephemera of deviance, of a sexuality focused upon secondary and tertiary symbolic apparatuses, of crime and the state and the revolution blurred irreparably therefore that much more dangerous.
James Osterberg was adrift after The Stooges fell apart, hitch-hiking aimlessly from town to town, working pickup jobs, falling in and out with local dealers, prostitutes, nightclub impresarios, leaving in the middle of the night without a word, sometimes settling his debts in a heap of bitten and chewed gold coins dating from the 16th Century atop unmade beds, nightstands, bathroom counters. These are what they call Iggy's Lost Years. Some people say he brought justice to frontier towns using esoteric forms of energy channeling, pineal focus and absolute concentration. Other people say, yeah, that, but also whisper about how he stopped doing that stuff and holed up in a filthy house on the outskirts of some place after the darkness showed itself to him for real and if a whisper could whisper they would definitely about that one night a year when he would bring back the blood and the glitz and the danger, the self-analysis and the momentary, unheralded glory of mass-murder-for-hire. This is where Iggy turned, turned in such a way that he could go on from this place to make disco records, cold deadpan records, hollowed-out from years of desert wandering, newly slithered into an incantory croak and mumble and exhortation and always while smiling except when there are no witnesses.
31 is an anti-epic of burnout, of frustration, of a dog returning to its own vomit out of compulsion and need and finding that really, it wanted that cold vomit drying on the carpet more than a lot of other things which weren't really a possibility right then if we are really being honest. There are times when it is nothing but a clinging and nauseous surface film of crass abhorrence in expulsive deo but there are also all the other times where what is behind and underneath that, a darkness that absorbs and blots and falls within its own penumbra, something so tired and sad and yet so very hungry that in the absence of prey it would consume itself or lay dormant, waiting for the next phone call or reason to get up from bed or leave the house, to put on a show again for everyone who has assembled there beyond the floodlights, or tied to a chair, or locked in a bathroom streaked with hysterical tears and clotting mats of blood that isn't just theirs but whose exactly it belongs to might never get discovered, not even on Unsolved Mysteries years and years after the trail goes cold.
★★★★½ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd
Was an 83, now an 87
Ruthless peaks and valleys of nothing, with space being the only signifier of progression or difference in a scenario entirely shaped with the stench of a person becoming lifeless, becoming meat. The opening scene is what Rob Zombie was born to make - a hilarious, confrontational exploration of our hypocrisies and the violent tendencies we shed. The rest is similarly brilliant, painting savagely and brutally to the inspiration of excess. Blokeh, ill-defined foreground objects, and lingering metallic surfaces compliment the evil. America is one big game, and we're all rats in a maze.
★★★½ review by Filipe Furtado on Letterboxd
An impressionistic mirror funhouse of savagery. Some of the provocations are stupid in the arrested development way one would expect from Zombie and a lot of this boils down to little more than him finding fresh ways for torturing his wife. There’s a psychosexual quality to this, that makes the term torture porn actual work beyond the usual prudish criticism. Zombie’s is getting off on all the depraved material he is feeding on as much as he is commenting on it, but he has a feel for the most horrible imagery American cinema has produced that gives this a jolt of energy beyond mere titillation (which it has plenty of). It is a vile movie for sure as it is a commentary on such vileness and it is main quality is a refusal to offer one any hope of separation from it. That Zombie’s style has grown with time accomplished just makes it sting more, his use of light and claustrophobic close ups is first rate and even the fact that most of his set-pieces makes no sense in a shot by shot basis actually turn them more aesthetical arresting. Sometimes I wish he could grow beyond his 70s fetishism as that is the film’s major weakness, the first act in particular suffers a lot from that. But the angry mirror remains and the film purposes an avenue to sick imagery out of American culture that is powerful.
★★★½ review by Michael Stuhlman on Letterboxd
Richard Brake made for a better Joker than Jared Leto.
★★★★ review by Matt Curione on Letterboxd
Oh boy, this is the ultimate video game movie for Trump's America. A gutting look at the rich's oppression of the lower classes, but with much more gore.
Think Running Man meets House of 1,000 Corpses. Malcolm McDowell plays a Barry Lyndon dandy crossed with Richard Dawson and it's just as insane as you can imagine. The rest of the cast brings it as well, with believable depictions of dread and desperation, Sheri Moon as usual, being a highlight. Richard Brake however is really something else, a vile and depraved creation that's the best Joker performance of 2016.
The contestants of 31 are constantly leveling up, forced into enclosed arenas, and put up against increasingly difficult boss battles. Why do studios keep trying to adapt videogames when we have films like 31 that are more entertaining than those could ever hope to be?
Cinematography matches the brutally of the violence. A chainsaw revs up and the screen shakes to high heaven. The viewer is placed in the contestant's shoes with low visibility and a claustrophobic effect thanks to the funhouse lighting on display. This is an oppressive feature.
31 is a visceral trip into depravity and literal class warfare. It may not be for everyone, but if you're down to clown, it's a wild ride.
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