31 is a 2016 American horror film. Directed by Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, House of a 1000 Corpses) starring Sheri Moon-Zombie (every Rob Zombie Film), Jeff Daniel Phillips (The Lords of Salem) and Richard Brake (Hannibal Rising). The film was partly financed by crowdfunding.
31 follows a group of carnival workers as they drive through the countryside on the way to their next gig. Along the way, they get jumped by a gang of stripy, clown faced goons and wake up in an underground facility being taunted by weirdos dressed as 18th century nobility (including an obligatory appearance from Malcolm McDowell). They are informed they have been ensnared in a deadly game where they will be hunted by a gaggle of carnival themed assailants, including a dwarf dressed as Hitler, a pair of chainsaw wielding clowns and ultimately the sinister “Doom-head” (Brake). As they’re picked off one by one, it comes down to a final confrontation between Charly (Moon-Zombie) and Doom-head as they battle up to the surface again to try and finish each other off before 31 ends.
If there is one talent that Rob Zombie possesses (and believe me, it is only one), it’s being able to make a film simultaneously ludicrous and incredibly tedious. There is only the most basic semblance of a plot and not a shred of originality and, as with many Zombie films, you can check off the clichés as you go (seriously, chainsaw wielding clowns?). Things could have gone very differently for poor old Robert, as since he burst on the scene 14 years ago exploitation films have seen quite the revival largely due to people like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Jason Eisener. The sad truth is, whilst Rob Zombie clearly loves exploitation movies, he has no idea how to write one and it’s no coincidence that his grindhouse trailer "werewolf Women of the SS has not received the feature film treatment whereas Hobo with a shotgun and Machete have (I want my Nic Cage Fu Manchu dammit!).
The dialogue is cringeworthy, even by exploitation standards, and does nothing to propel the plot or develop the cartoonish characters who are lazy pastiches of 70s horror movie tropes to begin with. Even Moon-Zombie looks pretty bored playing more or less the same character she plays in all of her husband’s films. The only saving graces of the movie are the gore, which Zombie always executes to a high standard, and the refreshing performance of Richard Brake as the psychotic “Doom-head”, dumb character name aside. From his opening black and white monologue, to his closing speech as he taunts Charly, he takes the wonky grindhouse dialogue and delivers it like he means it with the kind of intensity I’d like to see explored by more adept directors.
Not content with remaking other movies, Zombie has now started remaking his own films and the result is one of his more brainless efforts to date. His filmography is not without it’s cult following, but even fans of The Devil’s Rejects will find little to satisfy their longing for a continuation of the tired Texas Chainsaw tribute act. Rob Zombie’s career continues to mirror his decomposing, shambling namesake, and not even crowdfunding can bring him back to life after this one.
* 1 star
What did you think of the movie? Are you a fan of Zombie’s earlier work?