Rob Zombie is no stranger to the horror genre. Or gore. Or clowns, for that matter. In his latest gore-fest 31, Zombie goes for what he knows best. The twice crowdfunded film once again explores Rob Zombie’s nightmarish visions of the futility of life and treads the hardly new territory of terrifying, murderous clowns.
What is 31?
Starring his wife Sherri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell, and Gilmore Girls actress (yup) Judy Geeson, 31 follows a group of people traveling somewhere on Halloween for reasons that are irrelevant. Upon stopping to remove some weird stick figure things that are blocking the road, mysterious men attack the group and hijack their van. Five of the group survive and awaken inside an elaborate house. Here, a trio of 17th-century fop-like cosplayers invite (read: force) the five to play a game of 31. What is 31? It’s essentially hide-and-seek with murder. The group wake up inside an abandoned industrial factory and must try to survive a Rob Zombie movie while the fop cosplayers place bets on who dies next.
In a recent Q-and-A, Rob Zombie stated that he came up with the idea while trying – and failing – to make a completely different movie. Frustrated with the process, he decided to come up with the simplest premise that would sell. So, the director’s top-of-mind keywords were hide-and-seek + murder house + clowns. And so, 31 was born.
Does It Work?
For fans of Zombie’s previous work, 31 may be something of a let-down. While we may be used to his murder-for-murder’s-sake style, 31 is, even by Zombie’s own accounts, a movie without a point. There is no social commentary here, no larger idea, just screams, gore, and scary clowns coming to get you.
While hardcore fans may be disappointed, 31 may be the easiest Rob Zombie film to digest, particularly for horror fans new to his style. It’s simple, follows a linear storyline, and has a conclusion. There’s not a lot to it really. Performances are what you’d expect, the gore seemed a little more toned down, and with the shaky camera work making details difficult to distinguish, there isn’t really all that much to see.
The opening sequence, however, is an outstanding example of Rob Zombie at his directorial finest. Here, he gets out of the way and allows the incredible Richard Brake (Game of Thrones) to be his most menacing. Shot in black-and-white, the scene is just a tight close up of Brake as the psychotic Doom-Head. With cracked clown make-up and bloodied face, Brake spits out a long monologue, providing the only suspenseful moments of the film. The dialogue isn’t great, but the performance nails the threatening essence of the character.
Something Different Next Time?
Ultimately, Rob Zombie’s heart clearly wasn’t in this one. In an interview, he admitted that his favorite directors were those who captured slice-of-life moments. When flicking through Netflix, he said he’d watch a movie about a guy who opens a drug store and does nothing with his life. Although Zombie has previously directed a stand-up special for comedian Tom Papa, it would be fascinating to see him move into a less cliched-bonkers Zombie-esque arena and see what he could do with something that has depth. Let’s see something new. Let’s see what you can really do.
In case murderous clowns weren’t already haunting your nightmares, check out our look at Eli Roth’s horror Clowns.