Review by Lauryn Angel
About an hour into 31, Rob Zombie’s latest film, I had the thought: I’m really not enjoying this. The protagonists are unlikable, the plot is predictable, and the movie seems to drag interminably. The back half of the film picks up a bit, but the film seems to be more about ticking off boxes and making homages than developing plot and character.
The protagonists of the film are a group carnies, played by Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, and Kevin Jackson – the characters have names, but those quickly get replaced by numbers – who are kidnapped. Their captors are a trio dressed as eighteenth-century aristocrats, led by Malcom McDowell, who force their prisoners to play a game of survival. The group has twelve hours to make it out of a maze populated by characters known as Sick-Head (Pancho Moler), Schizo-Head (David Ury), Psycho-Head (Lew Temple), Death-Head (Torsten Voges), Sex Head (E.G. Daily), and Doom-Head (Richard Brake). The action proceeds much as you would expect if you’ve seen Zombie’s previous films, but unlike some of his previous films, there’s very little suspense, and the kills are ultimately unsatisfying.
A friend of mine told me recently that what he loves most about Rob Zombie’s films is that they’re like extended versions of his music videos. This is still pretty much the case with 31, but in this case, there’s too much of what we’ve seen before with not enough of a payoff to make it worthwhile. Maybe it’s viewer fatigue, maybe I’m just getting too old, but 31 left me very unsatisfied, largely because Zombie seems to be attempting a statement about classism – all this carnage is for the amusement of the three aristocrats, after all, and they don’t seem to care which side wins, bets notwithstanding – but that statement is mostly a passing thought, missed by the players who amount to little more than pawns in a game.