31: Rob Zombie’s Most Dangerous Game
31 is Rob Zombie going full “Rob Zombie” and turning everything to 11. He came up with the idea in a few seconds and the 20-day production schedule felt rushed and unnecessary. Nothing is fleshed out (except the exploding flesh) and it feels like a study in style over substance. What I loved about his prior films (Devil’s Rejects, Lords of Salem) is the craftsmanship in creating a great script and the molding of great performances. The characters do terrible things but they spout solid dialogue and go down in a brilliant blaze of glory. There is a reason that The Devil’s Rejects was voted to be one of the top 21 horror films of the 21st century. The reason Zombie’s film appealed to outsiders and horror hounds is he created something that balanced violence, gore and character.
Nothing about 31 is surprising or fun. I left the theater feeling disappointed that my soul wasn’t hurting. I couldn’t even enjoy Richard Brake’s solid performance as the uber-killer Doom-Head because he was too busy spouting self-satisfied Rob Zombie dialogue. The character looks awesome but he is so smug and in love with pontificating that I began to dislike the guy.
31 tells the story of five carnival workers being trapped in a game of death. The game is called 31 and is headed by three rich bored people who bet money on who will live or die. The five people are drugged, separated and told they need to survive the next 12 hours inside a massive funhouse/factory/deathtrap. This leads them to being chased by a Nazi Dwarf who speaks Spanish and several other violent caricatures. Throughout their brutal ordeal they are stabbed, hacked, prodded, punched and crunched. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m pretty sure you can guess who the final survivor(s) are.
They don’t look like this at the end. via
I really wanted to like 31. I’ve always felt like Rob Zombie has a unique voice and I’ve appreciated his past works. However, I sat in my theater seat bored as all the ultra-violence unfolded in front of me. 31 reminded me a lot of the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. The films are crazy violent but very boring because there is nothing surprising or unique. If you are going to spend the time spilling blood at least create likable characters (think Hush) or villains so evil you actively root against them (think I Saw the Devil). I hate to say this but one word rang out as I exited the theater.
Don’t watch 31. Check out The Devil’s Rejects or Lords of Salem instead.