The Phantom of the Cineplex: 31

I used to be a sort of follower of Rob Zombie’s work.  I actually like his “House of 1000 Corpses” movies, not for their foreground story, but for the background setting and the whole world suggested by the little we are shown in the films (and I do believe that all his non-Halloween material is set in the same world).  His movies usually leave me intrigued and full of questions and I want to know more about his characters and their motivations.  But Rob Zombie is not a world-builder with narrative, he is first a visual storyteller.  Zombie’s films not only have a strong artistic style, his movies seem to actually be art pieces governed by his distinct aesthetic sense.  Because he seemingly plots around visual ideas which he already has in mind and wants to express, his stories are secondary to his visuals in consideration and he allows his scripts to suffer for the sake of the cinematography.

Now, when I claim that his scripts suffer, I have to qualify that comment categorically.  In Zombie’s prior screen-work, the inclusion and sequence of events was dictated by his own filming priorities and sometimes (often) scenes were depicted which did little to hurt or hinder whatever plot there was.  Actually, his prior stories were simple, tight, and straightforward, and his visuals were always at least compatible with the plot.  However, in this one work, “31”, the script suffers because Zombie only had so much give-a-fuck to invest and he blew it all on candy.

31 is a piece of crap.  It’s just a bunch random murderous encounters barely strung together by Malcolm McDowell’s creepy “McDowelly” commentary.  The movie looks like a scrapbook assembly of opportune pick-up shoots, taken at various times and places run together, much like how the whole spectrum of all Mexican foods (taco, burrito, enchilada and all other variations of the SAME thing) runs together.  To make shit.  They have the same components and flavor, but they shouldn’t all go on a plate together.  Each “act” of 31 is the same one-act story repeated over and over.  It’s lazy.  It’s so lazy that scenes were even apparently shot in order (as suggested when one character, having previously seemingly died, suddenly announces that he is well enough to limp into the next act — almost as if the actor himself had told Zombie he could make it to a scheduled shoot after all).

Filming the scene sequence in order would explain the “drift” from which the story suffered, as if each film session contained some improvisational element (’cause laziness) the cumulative effect of which was to end the movie in a different reality from which it started.  At the beginning of the film, the stupidly named “Doomhead” enters a room to lecture and kill a man already trussed up for slaughtering.  In the unfolding of the story AS FILMED, this makes no sense as each killer works independently and only enters the hunting grounds to replace their predecessor, and Doomhead is the final killer whose job it is to hunt down survivors who have escaped or killed their pursuers and who are running out the clock.  The film pointlessly violates its own rules a second time by killing Sheri Moon Zombie’s character well after she had already escaped, thus ending the movie on a premise entirely different from its beginning.

Speaking (or writing, typing, I guess…maybe I’m really just texting now, whatever) of Sheri Moon, she ain’t exactly “Helena-Bonham-Cartering” along, though she has kept her figure.  Also aging is FRIGG’N MEG FOSTER.  Whoa, but still, a good showing from Meg, nice to see her again.  Her haunting blue eyes are still seductive, and she could have appeared here as a very lovely, older lady, and sympathetic. Zombie made her character so lewd and vile and…just die.

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