Stars: Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm MacDowell, Pancho Moler, Lew Temple, E.G. Daily, Richard Brake, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, Kevin Jackson, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson | Written and Directed by Rob Zombie
When it comes to Rob Zombie as a filmmaker I’ll admit I have something of a soft spot for his work. He knows his horror and never bows down for the constant calls to conform to the politically correct society that seems to dominate the entertainment world now. With the release of 31, the question is, has he managed to pull off another The Devil’s Rejects or is this more of a Halloween 2?
The first thing you’ll notice with the story of 31 is that it is in very familiar territory. A group of carnival employees (including of course Sheri Moon Zombie) are travelling cross-country on Halloween. They are soon kidnapped and are entered into “Murderworld” where a gang of maniacs looks to massacre them for the pleasure of the rich (including Malcolm MacDowell).
The concept of 31 is very simple and easy to follow. We have maniacs dressed as clowns and other weirdos with names such as Sick-Head (Pancho Moler), Psycho-Head (Lew Temple), Sex-Head (E.G. Daily), and other similar names. They are paper-thin characters with very little build-up. What they do well though is violence. There are some standout murderers such as a Mexican dwarf dressed as Hitler, a huge German in a tutu, and of course Doom-Head (Richard Brake).
In many ways Doom-Head is the saving grace of the movie with Brake dominating every scene he is in. He has the intensity that makes the character work and the determination that is needed to make Doom-Head such a domineering character. In ways this brings the weakness of the film into the spotlight, why aren’t the other characters as well-defined as him?
When it comes to movies like 31 I have a problem when I don’t care about the characters who we are meant to be empathising with. It is almost telling of the state of horror films now that we’ve almost seen it all before. With Zombie’s new film it’s fair to say that it can’t get out of the shadow of Zombie’s past successes, especially The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses. In fact, when the main characters are first attacked, I even thought “well this is just like Corpses”. What I soon began to realise is the fact that 31 is lacking something, even if it is a fun movie.
It is easy to compare 31 with better Rob Zombie films, and other genre movies like Hobo with a Shotgun and that’s a problem. What Zombie has done is seemed to pull back on the intense energy of the piece and tried to make the film more menacing. This works with a character like Doom-Head, but not with his other clown like friends. What 31 needs is a spark that just isn’t there, and this is a shame.
On the plus side though 31 is a film that is entertaining and managed to keep me engaged. I found the ending slightly disappointing, but the ride to get there is one that will keep you moving. What I wanted was a film reminiscent of The Devil’s Rejects, what I got instead is one that is still scrambling to be House of 1000 Corpses and in truth that isn’t such a bad thing.
31 comes to UK cinemas and VOD from today, Friday 23rd Sept.