Review by: Dave Griffiths
Imagine The Hunger Games with blood-curdling gore and chain-saw fights. Yep that is probably the easiest way to describe director/screenwriter Rob Zombie’s (House Of A 1000 Corpses) brand new film 31. A film that sees Zombie take back his mantle of the most blood thirsty horror director going around and once again sees him return to the form that made him one of my favourite directors.
31 is set on Halloween and sees five carnival workers – Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie – The Devil’s Rejects), Roscoe Pepper (Jeff Daniel Phillips – Westworld), Panda Thomas (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs – Sublime), Venus Virgo (Meg Foster – The Emerald Forest) and Levon Wally (Kevin Jackson – Cadillac Records) taken hostage and forced to compete in a game of life and death against a group of sadistic clowns while Father Murder (Malcolm McDowell – A Clockwork Orange) watches over proceedings.
Story wise there isn’t much to 31 but there doesn’t need to me. No 31 is more a film for fans of a good gorey horror who want to see a sea of blood splatter and be introduced to some of the sickest characters that you are ever likely to see on the big screen. To Rob Zombie’s credit 31 does both of things led by a character named Doom-Head (Richard Brake – Hannibal Rising) that even makes Heath Ledger’s The Joker seem like a reasonable kind of guy. Of course like most of Zombie’s movies there isn’t just one ‘baddie’ to worry about – no here we see a number including a sexual Harley Quinn style female clown, two redneck clowns hellbent on using chainsaws and even a swastika emblazed dwarf clown.
One of things that always manages to impress me about Rob Zombie’s movies is how he can get the audience to ‘barrack’ for grungy characters that would likely be the bad guys in other films. Here it would be have been easy for Zombie to have taken the easy way out and made the five fighting for their lives clean cut college students but instead Zombie makes them rough-and-ready carnies but still manages having his audience wanting them to get out of this game alive.
To his credit Zombie also takes a creative approach to the blood splatter in 31. He does this by ramping up the game with some brilliantly shot chainsaw fights that have to be seen to be believed and other one-on-one fights that always sees the underdog become creative in the way that manage to defend themselves. This manages to raise the suspense level of the film to a whole new level and has the audience wondering just which members of the five are going to survive this. It also means you never know who or what is going to be after them next and while light on script this means 31 certainly has heightened suspense levels.
It is also great to see actors of the calibre of Malcolm McDowell willing to team up with a visionary horror director like Rob Zombie and make a memorable character like Father Murder really come to life on the screen. As usual Sheri Moon Zombie does a wonderful job with her husband’s material but the real stand-outs here are Jeff Daniel Phillips and Richard Brake. Phillips shows real acting ability playing the leader of the five, but Brake steals the show from the opening frame of the film. Brake reveals a commanding screen presence that makes the psychotic Doom-Head one of the most terrifying horror villains to grace our screens in a long, long time. Hopefully this is the performance that will make Hollywood sit up and notice Brake, while we can only pray that Zombie decides to use Doom-Head in another movie down the track.
If you love a well shot gory horror flick than 31 is the movie for you. This is the movie that sees Rob Zombie back at his brilliant best and this is hands down one of the best horror films of the year.
ROB ZOMBIE’S 31 WILL SCREEN ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT (Monday Oct 31) AT THE FOLLOWING VENUES:
Melbourne: Lido Cinemas Hawthorne October 31st 9pm
Melbourne: Classic Cinema Elsternwick October 31st 9pm
Melbourne: Cameo Cinemas Belgrave October 31st 9pm
Mt Gambier: Oatmill Cinema Complex October 31st 9pm
Perth: Luna Palace Cinemas Leederville October 31st 9pm
Sydney: Dendy Newtown Cinemas October 31st 9pm