Dir.: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Richard Brake, Meg Foster and Malcolm McDowell
If you join any group of horror fans in conversation at a horror convention, outside your local cinema or even near the public toilets and bring up Mr. Zombie’s name, I can guarantee the response would be as rich, varied and complicated as ice cream vomit.
Vilified and admired by various members of the horror community, Zombie has carved a considerable reputation as a showman and somewhat of a maverick with displaying his affection of bygone genre tropes, splatter punk sensibilities, LSD-based psychedelia, serial killers, social degenerates and the Marx Brothers. While he hasn’t been widely turned into a pariah as say Uwe Boll, he has nonetheless drawn criticism for his decisions as a storyteller and director, mostly due to his remake of Halloween (which, for the record, I felt was indeed flawed yet interesting at least in the first half of the movie) as well as some of the other controversies he has garnered from his entertainment peers.
Regardless, one can’t help but give Zombie a modicum of grudging respect by acknowledging that the man knows what he wants and will do everything in his power to get it done in an industry which finds sterilization and sanitation a necessity when it comes to films which are primarily made to draw attention to the evils of the world, how to combat them constructively and how to face one’s fears.
Rob Zombie’s 31 is more or less a middle-of-the-road effort for me, despite it being chock-full of the man’s trademarks excessive, graphic violence, profanity, raw, exaggerated depictions of human depravity with a distinct eye for somehow making some of these situations look and sound quite impressive. The story is fairly pedestrian yet uncomplicated a group of pot-smoking, swearing carnival workers travelling cross-country in the summer of the 1970s being savagely accosted by a Sadeianesque cult who take them to an undisclosed location where immediately upon arrival, learn they are to take part in yet another rendition of the Most Dangerous Game- human/human hunting. Taking inspiration from the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Running Man and Battle Royale, 31 embarks on a grotesque and bombastic ride of thrills and a lot of messy, sticky spills.
There’s nothing new or especially genius about 31, but there is no doubt immediately after watching this latest effort of Zombie, you will know it will gain a certain subset of fans who will rapidly bolster 31 into a naughty and mean-spirited cult classic. This movie is not going to join the ranks of The Devil’s Rejects or any A-Grade horror you can think of, but there is a warped element of fun mixed in with self-indulgence that it’s impossible to TRULY despise. At least in my opinion. For example, and this is spoiler free so do not flee, the final minute of the movie leaves a strong statement due to the two characters on- screen; no words are said, no crazed acts of violence occur, all that can be heard is Aerosmith’s Dream On, but a moment of silence between them which leaves a lot of room for the audience to use their imagination. Moments like these assisted in my enjoyment and consideration of the movie, not to an enormous degree, but it kept me interested.
On the whole, 31 is an acquired taste and it truly doesn’t do anything we haven’t already seen from Mr. Zombie’s oeuvre as a film maker, but that’s not sincerely a bad thing. However, if you want a thoroughly original and/or challenging movie, this one probably wouldn’t puncture your kidney ticket.
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