I’m a fan of Rob Zombie. His music is fun and oozing with the macabre, while his movies are gore fests with neat little gems hidden under all that blood. He has managed to craft some of my favorite horror in the recent decade. Films like the southern fried, ultra-violent The Devil’s Rejects, the very unique and haunting Halloween II, and the very psychedelic The Lords of Salem have all displayed glimmers of horror genius, and naturally got me very excited whenever Zombie began to dabble with celluloid again. With that said, his latest release, 31, is complete trash.
First thing’s first. The violence in this movie is classic Zombie– visceral, dirty, and totally brutal. It’s the only good quality of the movie, and even then it’s bogged down by poor camera work. A good chunk of the action is shot very close, which makes things quite difficult to discern at times– you couldn’t tell who was stabbing who the bulk of the time.
Now that we got the only good thing in this movie out of the way, let’s get to the nitty gritty. The story was shit. I’m not really sure you can even call it a story– there was no real structure to any of it. Most of the time it felt like Zombie was just throwing ideas at a wall and was waiting for something to stick. Nothing in the movie made much sense. The situation itself, the game of “31,” was never explained. There is no cause or reason for the unfolding violence, which is just terrible. I love me some brutality in my horror, but at least make the shit comprehensible. Filming violence just for violence’s sake is pretty much bottom of the barrel genre filmmaking– and for Zombie, it’s not like he’s treading new territory with his version of blood and gore here. There was nothing innovative about the ferocity that was on display– in fact, it’s a step backward in what was an already critically polarizing filmography for the director.
Unfortunately for this shitty story, and the poor audience, the film is laced with a slew of shitty characters. Zombie seems to have this infatuation with making all his characters uneducated white trash: Even the characters of color he writes are pure white trash. I don’t get it. The characters in this flick are no different. There is not one redeeming quality in any of these carny folk. Also, when is Rob Zombie going to realize that his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, who plays Charly, is not a suitable replacement for a real actress! To top it off, he makes her carry the weight of this turd fest on her weak shoulders, which doesn’t work because she’s just terrible. The sequence when you are first introduced to our poor saps is a prime example of what not to do if you’re trying to establish your protagonists. I immediately disliked all the characters– every one of them is a fucking dirt bag. Aside from Charly, we have Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), who has a questionable Caribbean accent for some reason, Venus (Meg Foster), Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Levon (Kevin Jackson).
The antagonists in the movie are the more fleshed out characters since Rob Zombie is a savage and could not care less for the victims. We’re treated to a dysfunctional array of killers, ranging from a Nazi midget to a pair of brothers with a knack for chainsaws. The main baddie was known as Doom-Head (Richard Brake), and he was the most complete character we get in the movie. He’s really the only character Zombie seems to want you to care for. From the very start of the movie, Doom-Head is given the spotlight, as he’s shown giving a pretty rad monologue to one of his victims, right before he cuts him down with a couple of whacks with a rusty axe.
I’m very disappointed with 31. I had some decent expectations for this flick, and it fell flat on its ugly fucking face. The poorly underwritten story, coupled together with the complete lack of character development and senseless violence, made this movie super painful to watch. I pretty much wanted all the characters in the movie to just fucking die already. I’m hoping Rob Zombie got this bullshit out of his system because another effort like this will for sure get him a one-way ticket to my movie jail. //Arturo Padilla