Here’s the thing, I like Rob Zombie. At least, I like it when Rob Zombie is making horror. That seems to be the problem, at least in the middle of his career… he came out strong with house of 1000 corpses which I genuinely think it is the prototypical Rob zombie movie. It is the blueprint, the archetype. But he got so much blowback from the way it ended – and I’ve heard this criticism myself on more than one occasion. This idea that the end is too fantastic, that it goes off the rails, that it becomes a cartoon… I disagree with all of that by the way, I think the ending is just fantastic enough and it actually punctuates the movie for me. I like that it goes off the rails, because it turns the film into a bona fide horror movie (when it was teetering on the brink of either being a thriller or a genuine horror). Still, I think he got so much flack for that ending that he felt like he had to go darker, more serious and gritty to be legitimized as a filmmaker. That’s what we get in the devils rejects, and it is absolutely a departure – it’s a different genre then the movie it’s supposed to be a sequel to. It’s very much a road trip thriller, and at the sharp contrast to the horror movie that House was. It’s a trend that we continue through his Halloween films – a far more serious and straightforward tone… with an occasional high concept thrown in just to try and remind you that he can in fact think. Still this gritty serious tone makes those films joyless and sucked A lot of the fun out. This is why I actually appreciate his last film, Lords of Salem. It feels like Zombie had remembered that movies are supposed to be fun. They can be bloody and violent and complete head trips, but they don’t have to be nihilistic. They can still be fun. There are some missed opportunities in Lord of Salem, but it certainly felt like Zombie beginning a return to form. 31 is the fulfillment of that promise and the true return to form I’ve been hoping for. I feel like this film really drives us back to that original prototype with a bloody scary, fun film.
We have a group of traveling carny people en route to the next destination when suddenly they find themselves abducted (in a scene very reminiscent of house of thousand corpses) and trapped in a very Saw-like dungeon to play a game called “31 “. They must survive the night… 12 hours trying to move through this factory Labyrinth while killers stalk and attempt to exterminate them. It’s a reasonably simple premise, and we’ve seen 100 times before. Somebody else described it as the running man meets the purge and I think that’s a great description. What that doesn’t tell you though is how much fun this movie is. You root for the heroes, and you desperately want them all to get out. I like these people, and I want to see them escape. You boo the villains. They’re little more than stereotype stand ins, but that doesn’t keep them from being interesting. And yes, the imagery is clown is there, but these are not actually clowns. Their masked and made up and that’s about as much as we get to the clown thing. The kills are bloody and gory and inventive, and our heroes fight back wonderfully. We don’t get a lot in the way of twists although there is a sprinkling of Illuminati behind it all. Still, I dig this one. it’s Rob zombie doing what I like, bringing the blood, while keeping it larger-than-life. It’s absolutely a Zombie film, we have Sheri moon zombie as one of our leads, it’s set in a 70s that looks more like the way somebody imagined the seventies looking… It’s filtered and greasy and effective..31 is probably my favorite zombie film since his first one, and I’m relieved to see this as his second horror film in a row… It’s a path I hope he’ll stay on, because I genuinely enjoy it when he does.