31 is a film by Rob Zombie that follows a group of carnival workers that are forced to participate in a deadly game for the gambling amusement of rich spectators. Placed in a maze-like warehouse, the would-be victims must survive a 12-hour onslaught of sadistic, well-armed clowns paid to slaughter them.
It wasn't hard for me to conclude, in my mind, that 31 is my favorite Rob Zombie film to date. I thoroughly enjoyed the mayhem, partly because it felt more cohesive and collected than the mayhem in his other films. I doubt my opinion will carry over to other fans of Zombie's work, but it was nice to see a change of pace that didn't ease up on the chaos, but made it more clear, concise, and fluid. A lack of rhyme or reason in horror is all well in good, in some movies and in others in small doses, but it was a breath of fresh air to see Zombie combine his eye with more traditional methods.
The story is nothing special, but what Zombie movie is? Although I didn't think much of it while watching the film, it did feel a bit like The Purge; rich people brutally murdering the poor for their amusement. But in true Zombie fashion, you don't feel like you're watching a retread of anything, even when it's under the guise of homages to other films.
The acting is the usual canned corn we've come to expect from Zombie. However, as many people have grown a cult-like appreciation for Sid Haig (House of a Thousand Corpses, The Devil's Rejects), I found Richard Brake's portrayal as the hired psychopath Doom-Head was flawless. He kicks off the film with a foreboding, melodic, verbose, and brilliant monologue and it immediately latched me onto the film. Brake dominates every moment of screentime he gets, which is unfortunately too little. I immediately wanted to see more of the character when the credits rolled. I would totally watch a movie about Doom-Head.
The shoe-string budget (by Hollywood standards) is virtually unnoticeable amidst the carnage on screen. The only thing we are denied is a set of decent acting chops for the fodder, but that is a reasonable dismissal given the purpose of the film. It's difficult to get through the opening act with the cliche dialogue and patterned Zombie setup, but once through it the film truly shines. There will be those that still hold The Devil's Rejects in the highest of esteem, but I'd much sooner watch 31 again than any other Zombie film.
Horror Qualifier: 9/10
Horror Quality: 7/10
Film Quality: 5/10