31 Nights of Horror (#1) | 2017
On this episode of The Nightly Chill:
Cinematico Magnifico stepped out of The Last Video Store on Earth in search of some late-night scares. But he still took the time to record his review of Rob Zombie’s 31 using his smartphone.
Needless to say, the footage he sent us is about as shaky as the movie’s premise.
When a van full of carnies find themselves stopped dead in their tracks one evening, they’re not only confused and upset but brutally assaulted, kidnapped, and ultimately forced to
compete in a deadly, twisted game of survival in 31.
Written and directed by Rob Zombie, 31 is easily his worst movie to date. In fact, as an admitted fan of Zombie’s work, including his controversial and divisive handling of the
Halloween franchise, I would say it’s his only outright bad movie.
The movie’s troubles are abundant as they are surprising. For a man who built his filmography on stylish, brutal, and highly disturbing visuals mixed with a strong in-your-face cast of colorful characters–including monstrous villains so memorable that he once dedicated an entire film that presented them as the unlikely heroes of the piece. For a filmmaker like that, it’s utterly shocking to discover 31 lacks almost everything that made Zombie’s work so interesting.
Starting with just the basic premise, 31 rehashes the setup of House of 1000 Corpses, with a van full of fairly bland, unsuspecting characters beset upon by a group of violent nut jobs in the middle of nowhere.
But unlike that movie, 31 doesn’t have the colorful Captain Spalding or his equally colorful family of misfits. Instead, we get an uncharacteristically lifeless performance from Malcolm MacDowell as some mysterious overseer of a vague game of survival. Our main cast is chained up, given numbers, and then sent through an uninspired death maze where they’re chased down by a series of homicidal maniacs with colorful names and outfits but wholly uninteresting personalities.
In fact, if it weren’t for character actor Richard Brake’s outstanding performance as the crazed “Doom-Head”, it’s likely the whole thing would be utterly forgettable.
Unfortunately, Brake’s appearance is fairly limited. He appears at the very beginning only to then be relegated mostly to the movie’s third and final act.
Why Zombie kept the closest thing he had to a memorable character and performance on the sidelines for most of the movie instead of focusing on this sadistic, captivating lunatic is beyond me. But it’s yet another sign that Zombie had little more than a sliver of an idea before he rushed this one into production.
There’s no story to speak of. The visuals are lacking his distinct flair. There’s not even much of anything that shows these characters as carnies–they’re just a group of weird misfits talking in a cramped a van for some 20 minutes before the movie actually gets going.
Overall, the movie is a great premise executed without anything that made Zombie’s previous works standout so well. Worse, 31 feels like someone’s bad impersonation of Rob Zombie.
And so, in the end, 31 is not only a disappointing dud, but a definite NO CHILL.