31 Movie Review
by Gene Von Banyard
Clowns! What's with all the clowns? This question is the subject for another day and another article but needless to say, Coulrophobia (the fear of clowns) is the #1 phobia in the world today and Rob Zombie has burrowed deep into this collective, contemporary terror and mined it at its visceral core for gore filled goodies and his latest film 31, is certainly one of its juiciest. Ever since House of a 1,000 Corpses (2003), Rob has exploited our fear and fascination with clowns by presenting them in their most horrifying form: psychotic, homicidal killers. 31 is no different. In fact, 31 can be seen as a re-generation of House's exploitative style and the shared, murderous psychosis of its inhabitants and their victims carnival-esque, gruesome demise. Now, some self-prescribed film theorists feel that Rob has “ran out of ideas” and “can no longer make films like he used to”. To this I say, have you ever listened to Rob's music or seen any of his music videos, animated films or read any of his graphic novels? Rob has been mining the semiotic slaughterhouse of popular culture for decades. It's who he is, what he was born to do and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. To me, this is great news for with any medium he terrorises, Rob makes movies for Rob, his performative clan and their legion of followers, period. To put it simply, 31 is a celebration of all things Zombie and I love Zombie.
31 begins where The Devil's Rejects (2005) left off (the critically acclaimed follow up to House of a 1,000 Corpses), on the open road but, once you have spent time in a Hell House, the Hell House never leaves you and it is only a matter of time before the House reclaims its own. This new breed of nomadic derelicts is led by none other than the great Sheri Moon Zombie. Again, a lot of people complain to the echo-chambre of online forums about the continual casting by Rob of Sheri as his film's protagonist. To this I say “they're married so get over it” and also, Sheri's acting becomes more focused and convincing with every role/film Rob casts her in and Charly is her best characterisation yet. Once Charly and her clan awake bound and gagged within this new Hell House, the aristocratic villains of the film are formally introduced (notably Malcom Mcdowell as Father Murder). They explain the rules of 31. The rules are simple, you have 13 hours to survive the Hell House and you may do whatever you wish to survive. The clan enter the House's labyrinth and then Clowns are brought in and with this, Charly and her clan commence playing 31 and their inevitable, moral corruption begins.
The sub-genre framework for 31 is that of Survival Horror and Rob approaches this framework like that of his villains torturing their victims: brutally, strangely and with ritualistic ease. Rob has of course done his structural homework and even though the set up and the characters of 31 are familiar, it's monsters are original and undeniably terrifying (notably Richard Brake as Doom-Head).
I enjoyed this movie for what it is, a survival horror romp laced with 70's/80's nostalgia. The filming and editing techniques, down to the Creepshow-esque transitions bring the joy of recognition to the old-school fan and the Clowns, their themes, language and murderous techniques offer enough originality and eclecticism for the new generation of millennial maniacs that the Zombie clan is sure to gain with this latest offering.
3 out of 5 Scars.