Well, it’s Fall, but Summer didn’t get the memo in Los Angeles and I’m combating this heatwave by staying in my cave. This week I’m checking out ROB ZOMBIE’s film, 31. Rob Zombie displays his obsessive understanding of “white trash” aesthetic and it is in full force. This movie was marketed heavily as something that will royally fuck with you if clowns make you the least bit uncomfortable.
The movie opens with a crew of carnival works in a van, which let’s be honest, are entirely overshadowed by Venus Virgo (MEG FOSTER) and her main bitch Charly (SHERI MOON ZOMBIE). Don’t act like you didn’t expect Sheri Moon to be the star. While in the van, the characters are each briefly introduced, and I would argue that this whole carnie thing they’re trying to pull is a front for a mobile whore-house.
“Sucky sucky, fucky fucky, juicy juicy, money money.” Yes, that was uttered with glee, so sure, let’s go with carnival workers, whatever helps you sleep at night.
The gang is ambushed and brought to a location called “Murder World” by a team of King Louis XVI’s rejects that were ditched in the Mojave and left to shrivel. Headlining this group of rococo trash is Father Murder (MALCOLM MCDOWELL) with his two lady friends. The gang is informed that they’re going to spend the next 12 hours fighting for their lives against a series of freaks with clown makeup. Each member of the group is given an estimate of how likely it is they will die at the beginning of the round.
The gang awakens separately in an area that resembles an abandoned, underground maze that was puked on by a sewage god. Luckily, we aren’t working with total idiots, so the team quickly finds each other, and the fun begins!
The film is carried by the colorful cast of weirdos that are steadily introduced throughout. Half of the fun is watching and waiting to see what unholy asshole will be unleashed next. Each killer that’s released is more vicious than the last. The psycho Marie Antoinettes upstairs release their first wave of crazy with the delightful “Sickhead.” Of all the villainous characters we get to see, Sickhead is arguably the most entertaining. Who doesn’t love a pint-sized Hitler with a thirst for blood who’s also Mexican?
Next we have Scitzo-Head and Psycho-Head, a demonic clown tag-team with a love of chainsaws. This is the point where the scenery takes a turn to straight up “carnival.” Then comes the power couple of Death-Head and Sex-Head, which really should have been given more screen time. Then we get to the sickest mother fucker of all, who psyches himself up to kill by repeatedly punching himself in the face: Doom-Head (RICHARD BRAKE). The smile on this guy could send collective chills down all the spines in a city.
Since we made is as far as Doom-head, there are obviously some within the gang that could handle the insanity being thrown at them. More interestingly, the survivors seem to adopt the crazy behavior the “heads” are exhibiting in order to survive. A certain character fights viciously and carelessly, and seems to get a sense of satisfaction out of winning.
31 was heavily marketed as having a “carnival” vibe, but ultimately doesn’t hit you over the head with the concept. The “clown” characters carry the film, but Zombie still wanted the gore and horror itself to take center stage. Sure, anyone can nitpick the different elements of the film, but you have to respect the creativity and passion coming from someone who brings horror to people outside of our tight-knit community. And you have to admit, using 18th century fashion in a horror film and not making it about vampires is something that hasn’t been done often.
Whether you love Rob Zombie or would rather eat your dog than watch this, he’s bringing a much-needed creative flair to mainstream horror. It’s a fun watch and should definitely be given a chance, there was a lot of love put into the creation of characters and it really shows. If you love white trash and blood, you’ll definitely enjoy this little number.