I like Rob Zombie. I think it’s important to start with that fact. I also have no problem with Sheri Moon Zombie. They both seem to enjoy revelling in their influences, and just generally having as much fun as possible. Which is no bad way to go through life.
And those are the positive points out of the way, so anyone who has already seen and enjoyed 31 should probably read no further. It will save you some grief, which is more than I can say for viewers who decide to take a chance on the latest grimy horror flick from Mr. Zombie.
I am struggling to think of any recent horror director who started with such promise, only to then seem absolutely determined to squander any goodwill while they take themselves on a fast downward trajectory to an end result as bad as this one. I LOVED House Of 1000 Corpses (and still do). I really liked The Devil’s Rejects. Then came Halloween. I stuck with Zombie. Mistakes were made, but they were interesting ones. The exact same thing can be said for Halloween II. The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto is hilarious, puerile, and an animated exception to the rule. The Lords Of Salem, however, was another step down, but you have to look at it and admire some of the creative choices.
Which brings us here. 31 is, without a doubt, a culmination of everything that critics would say is the worst of Zombie’s movies. In fact, it’s hard to think of a more infuriating middle finger to those who have stuck by the man. You get a slim plot (some people are caught and given so many hours to stay alive while killers are sent out to get them, in a survival of the toughest that flips around the predators and prey often enough to play out like some clumsy mash-up of The Running Man and, well, The Devil’s Rejects), you get the usual soundtrack mix, you get a script that takes itself so seriously as to become paradoxically laughable, and you get villain worship in a way not seen since the Firefly clan were filmed in glorious slow-motion.
The cast are adequate enough, but it must be said that nobody is on top form here, and none of them are helped by the script. Richard Brake comes out of things best, which may not surprise you when you find out that he’s the star baddie. Malcolm McDowell has to do nothing more than be regal and overly prim in the company of Judy Geeson and Jane Carr, and Sheri Moon, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Meg Foster just about manage to stand out from the assorted cast of potential victims.
There’s so much more I could go on about here, from the atrocious editing and the laziness of the recycled motifs to the sheer pointlessness of so many scenes that will make you wonder why this couldn’t have been at least 10-15 minutes shorter, but I actually don’t want to insult Zombie in the way he seems to have insulted the viewers. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Although a whole heap of them made this movie.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: ROB ZOMBIE
STARS: SHERI MOON ZOMBIE, JEFF DANIEL PHILLIPS, MEG FOSTER, RICHARD BRAKE, MALCOLM MCDOWELL, JUDY GEESON, JANE CARR
RUNTIME: 102 MINS APPROX