31 is writer/director Rob Zombie’s newest trip into terror. After a limited release in theaters it quickly found its way to on demand services everywhere and home release. 31 had been teased since Lords of Salem, with promises from Zombie that it was his most brutal film to date (how could that be possible??). So, does 31 live up to the hype? Does it redeem a bit of a dry spell by Zombie?
I will go ahead and say yes, it does live up to the hype and it does redeem Zombie. Let’s be honest, he’s not made a film that could stand up to House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects (Halloween if you want to stretch it…..I liked it but didn’t love his version of the white masked stalker). Halloween II was a joke, Lords of Salem had some brilliant imagery but never settled into anything cohesively good. For the record I’m not counting El Superbeasto (It’s my review, I make the rules here). Needless to say, there’s been a whole lot of promise, even in the not so great Zombie films, but nothing touching the level of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. 31 brings him back to the forefront of in-your-face, did I just see that, horror.
The story here involves a group of traveling circus crew members on their way to the next town. They’re best upon by a group of costumed and masked men on Halloween night and taken to an undisclosed location. Here they are chained, given numbers, and told they are going to play a game called 31. A trio of obviously wealthy antagonists dressed in powdered wigs and white make up tell them the rules. Survive 12 hours in this game they’ve rigged and you’ll win. Each member is given odds of survival and the best is 50 to 1. In other words, they’re not expected to survive. Obviously bets are being placed on these odds. They’re told that they will be hunted by different members of the Head gang….a group of clowns, each with a name fitting of their personality. The first is Sick-Head. And he’s the nicest.
If you are easily offended or even the slightest bit light of stomach, 31 is not a game for you. It’s watching The Running Man through Zombie’s nihilistic filter. Do not misunderstand me, this movie is brutal. What’s crazy is that this is the R-rated cut of the film. Zombie had promised the DVD and Blu Ray formats would include an unrated “Zombie Cut” of the film, but, just as with House of 1000 Corpses, when it released it was still the R-rated version. Not sure why he’s holding onto the unrated cuts unless he’s planning some sort of box set at some point and relying on these uncut editions as temptation to double dip. That being said, 31 is a reminder that shock and awe still work in horror in a time that’s been overtaken by ghosts and atmospheric films.
Lastly, I want to say kudos to Rob Zombie for creating a new villain worthy of movie maniac status. Doom-Head is one of the best villains to come along the horror line in quite some time. His character is one that I’d love to see more of and I hope Zombie has something in mind. It’s not often that I finish a movie wowed by a character as much as I was with this deranged madman.
So, in closing, I loved 31. It’s not for everyone though. In fact, it’s probably a niche audience only film. Love game style films like The Running Man? Did you enjoy Manhunt and Manhunt 2 video games? Are you already an established Rob Zombie fan? If so, you’re going to love this movie. If you don’t like his style, don’t expect this one to win you over. Again, if you are squeamish, avoid 31. The hallways of this dark and twisted game run crimson. But, if you’ve got the stomach and you’re ready to watch a group of people try to survive a secret game held by the filthy rich, it’s available to rent and own right now.