31 is the kind of Rob Zombie movie I could do without. As a big fan of The Devil’s Rejects and his Halloween interpretations, I was disappointed to find him making a straight and narrow body count flick.
31 is all meat and bone with not much in the way of brains. Zombie’s inspiration came from a stat stating more people go missing in the United States on Halloween than any other time of year. Somehow he took that idea and transformed it into the most obvious and brain numbing concept you could that has also been done to death. Basically: rich sickos kidnap a handful of people, lock them up in a secluded warehouse of horrors and unleash a bunch of psychos to kill them and place bets on their survival odds. Read that set-up and picture the Rob Zombie version. That’s exactly what 31 is. So if there’s no surprise, why watch it?
The grimy 70s period setting adds some nice flavour and, as ever, Sheri Moon Zombie is a stellar lead. Zombie’s love of the bizarre and deepening horror archetypes with reams of dialogue is on show as well. There’s plenty of striking imagery with a heavy Ken Russell vibe in a lot of the scenes but at the same time it looks like he just recycled some sets and costumes from his music videos and made a movie out of it. It’s certainly his most hollow movie and least inspired. The reason I’d push this over from being flat-out bad into being merely okay is because Zombie does have a handle on his set-pieces and also knows when to stretch things out stylistically. Content-wise this offers nothing more than any of the Saw sequels or Purge movies offer. But Zombie’s vision heightens it somewhat. There is some great use of music and the final scene, set to Aerosmith’s “Dream On”, morphs a predictable showdown into something far more interesting and visceral. But on the other hand…it’s a lesser version of what he did at the end of The Devil’s Rejectsbut you’ve got to take the good with the bad.
If you want to see a bunch of psychopaths mindlessly kill a bunch of people in a highly stylised milieu, you’ve come to the right place. But if you’re looking for deeper shocks, something that slices the psyche and dabbles in cerebral terror then you should probably check out Rob and Sheri-Moon’s previous collaboration The Lords of Salem instead. As that film proves, the Zombies can do far better.