31 **** U.S.A. 2016 Dir: Rob Zombie 102 mins
On Halloween 1976 we follow a crew of carnival workers travelling through a town in the arse end of nowhere USA get stopped on the road, attacked and those that survive the attack get kidnapped and forced to play a horrific game known as 31. The rules of 31 are fairly straight forward, survive 12 hours in this huge industrial warehouse whilst being hunted by some rather unsavoury characters such as Nazi dwarves, giant men in tutus and crudely made up hideously violent clowns, all with their own ways of taunting and dispatching their victims. They appear at different intervals during the game as the odds on the captives switch depending on their chance of survival whoever manages to make it through the 12 hours wins….or do they?
This latest Rob Zombie offering has a welcome feeling of familiarity to it as it’s the same era as House of 1000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects but is an entirely different idea to those films. It, of course, has Sheri Moon Zombie as one of the lead female characters, Charly. Alongside her we also have Meg Foster as Venus Virgo and Jeff Daniel Phillips as Roscoe, with other previous Zombie favourites such as Lew Temple and Ginger Lynn putting in grand supporting performances. Malcolm McDowell appears as one of the aristocratically wigged and powdered game leaders Father Murder. The aggressors are by far one of the best parts of the film with names like Sick-Head, Psycho-Head and Death-Head but the most terrifying of all had to be Doom-Head who we see in the prologue merrily chopping up a Pastor with an axe. Played by Richard Brake (Hannibal Rising, Game of Thrones) whose wiry frame doesn’t come across as particularly menacing at first but combine that with corpse paint and knives and he turns into a blood thirsty psychopath! The film is fast paced and holds your attention throughout from the black and white introduction to the humorous one liners, good acting and a great soundtrack courtesy of John 5 (formerly of the David Lee Roth band and Marilyn Manson, now the current guitarist in Rob Zombies band) interspersed with classic 70’s tracks ending quite hauntingly with Aerosmith’s Dream On. Rob Zombie seems to take bashings from most critics slating almost every movie he has done yet despite this constant abuse he keeps doing his thing and creating great horror movies his own way. I have always enjoyed his efforts. The only slight criticism I have of 31 is that the gore just wasn’t as much as I had hoped. It didn’t seem as graphic as it so easily could have been had a little bit more time been spent on it (it was said at the start of the film that it had been filmed in something like 22 days!), instead he opted for excitable, hyper active camera work and a shed load of fake blood, it was possible to just use you imagination in these moments and the suggestion of it was still effective. He got plenty of slashing and chain saw action in to keep us happy. 31 was possibly the best introductory film I could have chosen for my first ever experience of FrightFest film festival, as nothing portrays the essence of horror more then a Rob Zombie film! Don’t let the haters sway your opinion of his work they are all worthy efforts and 31 will not let you down.
Review by Sarah Budd