For all those that don’t know, through the course of Rob Zombie’s work history, he’s taken on the titles of musician, screenwriter, producer (film and record) and even… director. In 2003 Zombie gave the world a twisted horror filled film called House of 1000 Corpses, which was written and directed by him. Now, I liked his 2003 film debut, but I didn’t think it was anything new or special to the horror genre. What made me take notice of Zombie’s style and made me become a fan of his films was his follow up movie The Devil’s Rejects (2005). Between his dark and gritty writing style, wild characters and his gut-wrenching (and usually shocking) dialogue was his ability to mix it all together into a twistedly entertaining flick. So, when I heard Zombie was working on another film, called 31 (2016) I was super stoked! After watching it, I was super… disappointed. Unfortunately, Zombie’s movie skills are not as consent as his music skills.
31 is a horror/thriller that was written and directed by Rob Zombie. It has a hundred and two-minute run time and is rated R for violence and language. Here’s what you’re getting into with this one. The day before Halloween, five carnival workers are traveling together late one night when they come across something blocking the road. A couple of the guys get out of the van to move the blockage when suddenly they are attacked by a group of masked individuals. After the group is taken hostage they are taken to an isolated compound where they meet a man called Father Murder. Father tells everyone they are now apart of his game called 31 and must survive the next 12 hours while being hunted by a group of murderous clowns, called Heads. If they make it to the time limit, they are free to go. If not, well…
I will say the story has a cool idea behind it. Apparently, Zombie read somewhere that Halloween is the number one day of the year when people go missing and used that as the premise of the film. Anytime you throw missing people and Halloween together you (should) have a recipe for a good flick. Unfortunately, this recipe left me with a bad taste after watching it. After the characters are introduced and the story starts to take off is when everything starts to fall apart. Instead of using scenes and dialogue to build a good story, Zombie uses it to try and quickly shock the audience. Now, that’s nothing new with Zombie’s style. The Devil’s Rejects was full of shocking and offensive moments, but it fit the film and added something to the scenes. Here, those same “offensive moments” seem cheap and forced, which not only drags down the scene but after enough times, the film as well. Some of the characters are (kind of) introduced and then left floating through the rest of the movie till either death or the credits find them. 31 almost felt forced like Zombie was on a deadline to finish it or his heart wasn’t really in it. I don’t know but it’s missing the same feel his other films have. It seems like he had part of an idea for a story, a good opening and then didn’t want to do it anymore. So he wrote some shock-inducing dialogue, some death scenes and called it done. Nothing about this flick has any replay value to me.
The playthrough started off good and throws you right into the characters, which was cool. Once the characters found out what was in store for them is when the pace turns from good to bad and it started having trouble holding my attention. The whole thing revolves around the cast surviving for 12 hours, but they skip hours at a time as the story moves on. A fight scene would happen, the cast walks around a corner and all the sudden a time stamp was given to them that made it seem like the turned corner took an hour to get around. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that Zombie didn’t make us watch people walk for six hours, but the wonky time jumps throw off the movie. Because of the jumps I’m lead to believe they’ve been walking for X amount of hours and have not run into a crazy killer. A crazy killer whos only job to do, in a twelve-hour span, was to track them down… and kill them! Really?
Some of the cast is Sheri Moon Zombie as Charly (The Devil’s Rejects), Meg Foster as Venus Virgo (They Live), Jeff Daniel Phillips as Roscoe Pepper (The Lords of Salem), Kevin Jackson as Levon Wally (Rosewood), Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Panda Thomas (Welcome Back, Kotter), Richard Brake as Doom-Head (Hannibal Rising), Pancho Moler as Sick-Head (They Wanted Dick Dickster), Elizabeth Daily as Sex-Head (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure), Judy Geeson as Sister Dragon (To Sir, with Love), Jane Carr as Sister Serpent (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) and Malcolm McDowell as Father Murder (A Clockwork Orange).
Something you might have noticed about Zombie’s movies is you tend to see some of the same people pop up in a lot of his films like Bill Mosely or Sid Haig. Most notable would be his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie (who seems to play the same character in every movie), but there are others like Daniel Roebuck and Malcolm McDowell that have also thrown their skills to Zombies films more than once. So, an upside to Zombie’s films is there’s a good chance you’ll see awesome people like McDowell pop up again and again. The downside, cool returning casts don’t always get cool characters the next time around, which is pretty much what happened here. While McDowell plays an… eccentric… character, you never get to see any of that creepy McDowell charm that I’ve gotten used to seeing when he’s on screen. McDowell’s parts feel like they are there just so they can put his name in the credits, sadly. If I had to pick someone for stand out roles it’d have to be… Richard Brake. Brake delivers a character that’s either full on crazy, deeply twisted or maybe just not hugged enough growing up. Either way, Brake’s screen time is something you can’t forget about even after the movie is over. Everyone else pretty much delivered their lines, screamed when stabbed and died when it was their turn.
If you were wondering, yes there are some gory scenes in this one, but not as much as I was expecting. Up till the chainsaw welding clown, things were mainly bloody and pretty tame (for a Zombie flick), but once the chainsaw hits the scene things get messy from there on. One of the few upsides is they decided to go with practical effects with the film, which will always win points with me. However, the overall look and feel of the film was seriously low budget, especially when compared to his other films. Then I got to looking at the budgets and figured out why. House of a 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects had a budget of $7 million each, while 31’s budget, which was crowdfunded twice at fanbacked.com, was… $1.5 million. So, I guess that explains the low (low) budget look and feel of 31. Sadly, it only brought in $850,419.
Overall, it has a few entertaining moments, but there’s not enough there to make it worth sitting through an hour and some change to see them. Sadly, this just another generic slasher horror flick, with a Zombie stamp on it.