It’s the Captain’s FAVORITE time of year! This is part 1 of a four part review set for October where he’ll review his favorite genre…HORROR!
Horror month officially begins! And what better film to start things off than a Rob Zombie gorefest!
If you’re like me, you’ve had a pretty difficult relationship with Rob Zombie and his movies. Even though I thought The Lords of Salem was a hilarious piece of shit, you still have to admire his need to want to grow as a director. But sometimes you just have to go back to what you’re good at.
Have you ever thought what The Running Man would be like if it were done by a sicko? Well, ponder no more, because Rob Zombie has turned your fucked up fantasy into a reality.
31 is The Running Man meets House of 1000 Corpses. Goodbye the arty fartyness of Halloween II and the aforementioned Lords of Salem. This is Rob Zombie getting back to what he is great at, delivering bizarre sick and twisted characters that all swear like they stepped off the set of Deadwood. His ability to create these memorable fucked up bad guys is his best strength. And here he lets his imagination run wild. Introducing us to a coterie of fucked up killers.
His weakness however is giving us likable characters that we are actually meant to care about. Honestly, the only “good guy” character’s name I remember in this film is Charly, played by Rob’s wife of course, Sheri Moon Zombie. So mostly I referred to the rest of the cast of “good guys” with nicknames. There’s Jamaican guy, old lady, guy that looks like Rob Zombie and of course how can you forget other black guy.
Charly and her band of grifters are driving through some place out in the middle of nowhere when they are ambushed by a group of guys wearing Halloween skull masks and old fashion black and white barred prison garb.
Okay, I might have skipped a little bit before the ambush. So rewind a bit.
We start off getting introduced to Doom Head, played by Richard Brake. Who is pretty great in this. A lot of reviews I’ve come across of this film always mention how he should be the next Joker. After seeing his performance, I agree. Hell, he is the Joker in this. Looking over his imdb page, he’s been in a ton of films, a lot that I’ve seen, I just don’t remember him. I do however see he was The Night King from Game of Thrones.
Anyway, we start off with him monologuing to the camera. Even though he is dressed like a clown, he is not here for our amusement he tells us. And that’s before he takes an ax to the belly of a tied up priest.
After our little introduction, we are introduced to our “good guys”. I put good guys in quotes because they aren’t exactly good. Or likable. They’re slimy carnival folk headed to their next gig. Major slam to all the carny folk reading this.
It’s Halloween 1975. Our band of carny folk stop at a gas station to refuel and give us more of Rob’s dialogue. The dialogue… okay, think The Devil’s Rejects on steroids when it comes to the dialogue here. Some of it bad, some of it pretty good. Like if Tarantino and Eli Roth switched brains for a bit. Don’t get me wrong, Rob Zombie is a much better writer than Eli Roth could ever dream to be.
Rob Zombie guy meets Elizabeth Daily, who maybe you’ll remember for her many years of doing voice over work. She was also Dottie from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Also I think you see her naked in Valley Girl. Anyway, she plays Sex Head, one of the killers, but we don’t know that yet. As of right now she’s just trailer trash that shows up to flirt with Rob Zombie guy, trying to get info on them, like if they have any guns onboard their hippy van. Just his giant dick and muscles he replies.
She wanders off and we are treated to Jamaican guy taking a shit. I’m not all that sure on his relationship with Charly. I thought maybe they were an item, which would have made things a bit more interesting, seeing as Rob Zombie guy seemed to have a thing for her as well. Though none of this is ever addressed. It’s all mostly speculation on my part.
Like when I went to the theater once and I thought this really attractive lady was talking to me but really she was talking to this person behind me. I was so embarrassed I ended up mistakenly eating popcorn when I still had gum in my mouth. Not a great combo. It turns into a weird popcorn flavored Airheads candy.
After their short trip to the gas station, they are ambushed, half of them are killed right away, and the rest are taken hostage. Here is where you start to notice the editing getting kind of choppy. Out comes the shaky cam and the quick cuts. I guess I saw these people getting stabbed, it all went by so quickly I wasn’t sure until we saw their dead bodies on the floor of the van.
Now we’re introduced to Malcolm McDowell dressed like a 1700’s dandy. He is the host of 31. A game they play every Halloween. Hence the name of the film. 31 is a game where 5 people are chased after by a special kind of clown dressed killer. Why clown? I have no idea. When I think Halloween, I don’t usually think clown.
The first on the slate is Sick Head. A midget Mexican Nazi. Not exactly the most intimidating. All he has are two knives. And it isn’t like they leave our carnies defenseless, they get weapons too.
How anyone actually gets killed by this guy… well, that’s on you. Though other black guy does get stabbed to death. And later presented like Meatloaf from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, under a glass table our carnies are eating at. Most likely unknowingly eating him. Though how they had time to prepare him for that feast, I don’t know.
Next up, Schizo Head and his brother Psycho Head, two chainsaw wielding hillbilly crazies. Them as clowns actually fits for some reason.
The carnies are led to a circus ring area, where they run into a lady stuck in a plastic sex doll, who the killers refer to as their fuck bag.
The carnies get trapped, having bars slam down, separating them. Charly and Jamaican guy vs … either Psycho or Schizo Head. I don’t really know which is which and seeing as their imdb page pics look nothing like their characters, I have no idea.
The carnies do manage to kill them, but not before Rob Zombie guy gets pretty cut up. But at least now they have a chainsaw.
Up next, Death Head and Sex Head, played by Elizabeth Daily. How old is she now, because she is still pretty damn sexy.
Death Head is this 7 foot tall Swedish guy with a bat. Not exactly the most original so far. His sidekick Sex Head is a bit more interesting, looking like Harley Quinn.
Taking on these two means the end of Jamaican guy. That just leaves us with Charly, Rob Zombie guy and old lady.
With time running out… oh, I forgot to mention they only have to endure this for a few hours. If they are alive after the time is up, they can go free.
With time running out, they call in Doom Head. Who is in the middle of having sex when he gets the call. The way he gets ready for one of these things is a bit strange. He slaps on some white makeup and punches himself in the face until blood covers his mouth. That’s one way to apply makeup, I guess.
Right away he kills the old lady, stabbing her in the back, and then gutting her.
He chases Charly and Rob Zombie guy to an opening that might lead outside. But Rob Zombie guy is too badly hurt and forces her to go without him.
Of course Doom Head kills him right away.
Charly manages to escape the area they were being held, and makes it to an old creepy house with nothing in it but a circus puppet show.
Doom Head shows up, clocks her over the head and monologues for a bit. And right when he is about to kill her… time runs out. So he just walks away. She won the game of 31. The first to do so it seems.
The game might be over but that doesn’t mean Doom Head is finished. So he tracks her down and finishes the job on his own time.
Okay, my final thoughts. I really enjoyed this. I’d put it up there with House of 1000 Corpses, surpassing it. But not as good as The Devil’s Rejects, a film I still consider a masterpiece, even if it falls apart in the third act.
But 31 is a great middle piece, it fits perfectly between those two films.
The shaky cam did get annoying in parts, but it wasn’t as headache inducing as I heard it was. I think maybe it was done this way to get around how cheap the film really was and also, how much he most likely was forced to cut out to get just an R rating.
This thing is violent, gore filled and hardly ever does it shy away from anything it presents you. But, would still enjoy getting the inevitable director’s cut when it hits bluray.
If you’re a fan of his, but have been disappointed with his last few films, this is a great welcome back. As of right now it is on demand, so check it out!
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