Had a Rob Zombie double feature based on a couple Halloween-week purchases I made at an FYE store on vacation last month, his 2 most recent films, 31 and 3 From Hell, neither of which I had seen before. By way of disclaimer, I would say that I would not consider myself a fan of Zombie per se, but think he has made a handful of good (if unpleasant) films, although I absolutely loathe his Halloween remake. Did he finally make the leap and make an honest to goodness *great* movie?
|Posted: 06 November 2019 at 11:15am | IP Logged | 5
31 (2016, DVD)
Not here, he didn't. This is complete and utter trash in almost every way.
Sometime in the mid-70s (as many of Zombie's films are set), a group of travelling carnies are kidnapped on Halloween and forced to participate in a sadistic survival game called "31" set in a torture-maze where they have to evade and/or kill a group of psycho-clowns hunting them down. They "win" by surviving until morning (the "31" of the title apparently comes from the game only being played on Oct. 31 every year---otherwise, the significance is lost on me). The game is being played for the amusement of a small group of wealthy aristocrats, including one played by Malcom McDowell.
Despite the mildly interesting if cliched premise, the film contains not a single ounce of suspense. The fights/battles are all filmed with nausea-inducing shaky-cam that prevent you from following much of what's happening. There are no story surprises...everything you predict will happen based on the premise does, and nothing more. Any social commentary is only surface-deep...it's all just an excuse for Zombie to do what he really wants, which is put a whole ton of gruesomeness and awfulness on the screen. Which he does.
The one bright spot is a genuinely terrific performance from relatively new Zombie-repertory performer Richard Brake, whom comic fans may remember from his brief appearance as Joe Chill in BATMAN BEGINS. Brake plays the main psycho-clown, Doom-Head, and he is by far the best thing about the film. An electric performance.
But the film is still trash, Zombie's worst film. It may not anger me as much as HALLOWEEN did/does, but it has even less redeeming value.
3 FROM HELL (2019, Blu-Ray)
I think the previous Zombie movies about the loathesome but iconic Firefly family, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS were very good and memorable, with some truly great elements, even if neither ever completely came together (Zombie's best film to date, for my money, is THE LORDS OF SALEM). The finale of Rejects seemed to provide a pretty definitive ending to the Firefly clan, and a memorable one at that, so the announcement that Zombie was making a follow-up film 14 years later with the same cast raised the inevitable questions of "how?"
But all the same, I was intrigued. Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding was a revelation in those movies and just commanded the screen. Bill Moseley was Otis P. Driftwood was a chilling evil. And Sheri Moon Zombie as Baby was definitely the director's wife.
So how do they come back? Well, I kind of give Zombie points here...he knows how ridiculous it is to even suggest that the Fireflys could have survived the end of DEVIL'S REJECTS, so he almost literally just waves it off and tells you to go with it. I kind of admire the sort of shamelessness of it. He even plays it up with fake newscaster footage of people saying how unlikely it is that anyone could have survived what they did. But they do, and somehow none of them has a single scar or scratch.
Unfortunately, those looking for a true follow-up to the earlier films will be somewhat disappointed. Despite what some of the advertising I saw implied, it is not a real reunion film for the 3 main characters of the earlier films. One of them (you can probably guess who if you are aware of the real-life circumstances surrounding the film with regards to one actor's health) is limited to a single scene and then written out.
In order for us to still have our titular "3", the Fireflys get Coy-and-Vanced with the sudden addition of a never-before-revealed family member, Winslow, played by the aforementioned Richard Brake, who is good but not as memorable as the character he replaced.
The most interesting part of the movie is the first 15-20 minutes, which is largely made up of fake newscasts and documentary footage of the Fireflys after they have been captured, examining the effects they have had on the culture. There was some good stuff here, and I wish the whole movie had been this. Instead, the movie jumps the timeline ahead to the late 1980s for no discernible reason other than to accommodate the actors' ages, I think. With Winslow's help, two of the Fireflys escape prison after a decade in which they somehow, despite being incarcerated, have acquired thousands of dollars worth of tattoos, and head to Mexico to hang out. And from there the movie just becomes a remake of DEVIL'S REJECTS. The story contains no unexpected twists or turns...you will successfully predict everything that happens.
So it just makes me wonder why Zombie bothered. The ending of the previous film was so good and memorable (IMO) and definitive, why undo it if you have nothing new to say with the characters? Maybe Zombie just wanted to set the record for most uses of the word "motherf***er" in a film, I don't know. Another bit of ugliness is that I don't think there is a single female character in the film who isn't directly called or referred to as "b*tch", or both.
The acting is mostly fine to good, a lot better than 31, thanks to Mosely, Haig, and Brake. Sheri Moon continues to be the director's wife, although her Baby seems to be channeling Harley Quinn a lot early on.
I don't know, I may just be done with Zombie's films. I'm tired of the white trash aesthetic (I hate that term, but I use it because it's clearly what he's going for). I'm tired of his trope in his films that there basically are no good people, just some less awful and degenerate than others. Goodness and beauty are only to be torn down. Zombie as a horror filmmaker has been a lot more about "horror" than "terror" or suspense, and that's his right, but at this point he's only about nihilism.
Perhaps worse, I think it's inarguable by now that he is only paying lip service to the idea that these awful, awful people are monsters...at least, I don't think he sees them that way anymore, if he ever did.
I don't regret watching it, like I do 31, but it's an ultimately pointless movie, other than, I guess, for Zombie to retreat to his comfort zone after the financial misfires of his previous 2 films.
Edited by Tyler Kloster on 06 November 2019 at 11:16am