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ROB ZOMBIE seems to be a “love him or hate him” filmmaker (our very own Eric W. took a dump on this flick here), which for me is usually a sign of an auteur, somebody that puts their own distinctive stamp, for better of for worse, on everything that they do. By rule of middle finger up, I’m a fan of Zombie's work for the most part, with my favorites being LORDS OF SALEM, HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. Although I appreciated his two HALLOWEEN movies to varied degrees – I dig it better when Zombie operates fully in his own backyard, which bring us to 31 (WATCH IT HERE), his crowdfunded low budget flick, which goes back to CORPSES territory. Any good? Although flawed, I was entertained!
It’s a bit of a shame what happened to LORDS OF SALEM. To me it was Zombie’s most unique and ambitious effort, and it failing to bring in the coin, forced him to go back to a formula that he knows all too well. Here, as he did with CORPSES, Zombie took the basic TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE template “kids traveling, get kidnapped by killers and have to run/fight for their lives” and gave it another whirl. After a compelling edgy monologue by Richard Brake’s "evil and loving it” Doom-Head (more on him below), lots of trash talk and some skin, the flick didn’t waste any time to get to the macabre goods. The set designs and the lighting were wild as Zombie usual, making me feel like I was going through a haunted house ride on LSD. My fav room was one with a door framed by a woman’s spread open legs (painted on opposite walls) called “Wet Kitty”. Nough said! LOL! And the Aristocratic “fop” like chamber our main villains hung out in (led by a wig whoring Malcolm McDowell) acted as a potent contrast to the rest of the bleak settings.
Dare I say that there is some kind of social commentary to dig into here? Lets see; rich f*cks, exploiting UN-PC killers (Nazi, Spanish midget? Why not…) and bottom of the barrel citizens for their own pleasure and in the name of che-ching. But that was a fleeting thought in my one brain cell, as the sound of chainsaws revving up made sure I didn’t wind up thinking too hard about it. At the end of the neck snap, 31 was about, a series of action/stalks scenes strung together, some more effective than others. And in my book of blood, there’s nothing wrong with that! And I esteemed the brutality and the "f*ck yall” approach that Zombie took to said scenes. Another plus, is that while our heroes were hardly developed off the bat (unless grabbing one's crotch and cussing is fleshed out to you), we got to know more about what they were made of via pain and they did get more likeable as the clock ticked on, hence I did manage to give shit.
The colorful casting was gnarly as well. Sheri Moon Zombie, 80’s icon Meg Foster, Jeff Daniel Phillips, the still very sexy E.G. Daily (doing her version of Baby from Corpses), Kevin Jackson, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. They all came through! And I dug that Zombie cast older women as heroine/villain for a change. When’s the last time you saw a 68 years old dame (Foster) whoop that ass in a horror film? Exactly. But the true star of the show was Richard Brake’s bold, insane, bone chilling and utterly convincing showcase as “hitman/serial killer for hire” Doom–Head. Talk about a menacing and frightening figure! DAMN! He rivaled Bill Moseley’s warped turn as Otis that’s for sure! I hope to see that crazy bastard in a sequel down the road! Add to that some crassy/witty dialogue ("Everybody In Hell Loves Popcorn!"), a mucho engaging score that went from 80’s like synth to heavy guitar riffs, a sly use of freeze frame, groovy scene transitions, lots of smut and a I don’t give a f*ck attitude that I found charming and you get a gritty and trashy horror ride that makes no apologies!
So what was my problem then? My biggest peeve had to do with the fight/horror scenes, which were often way too close shot/quick cuts/shaky cam for my liking. I often had a hard time figuring out what the heck was happening and that took away from the impact of the bits. Some of the killers didn’t do much for me either (like that mook in goggles wearing a tu-tu) and less “silly” get-ups may have upped the fear factor. Finally less “motherf*cker this, f*ck every hole that” yapping from our psychos and more action would have been slick. Sometimes there is beauty in a fruit-cake keeping his mouth shut. But hey, that’s just me! Overall 31 did the body good! Think a lesser and more straight forward version of Corpses. If you dug the latter, you should be all good with this one. I said, “should be”, I don’t read minds man…