Dir: Rob Zombie, 2016
Musician and horror aficionado, Rob Zombie’s latest output is a welcome entry to comic book horror.
Set in the 1970’s, a travelling troupe of circus performers are abducted and forced to play in a deadly game of cat and mouse by a secret society who place odds on their survivability.
As is par for the course with a Zombie film, he has his wife in a lead role, Sheri Moon Zombie.
Looking at this, it’s obvious that Zombie has matured in his film making skills and shows what he’s now capable of with a deft touch.
His films have always been hit and miss, with his debut feature, House of a 1000 Corpses, being rather dull but it’s sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, being a fun romp.
Zombie’s reimagining of John Carpenter’s classic 70’s shocker, Halloween, had its moments was rather clever in its own way but, by and large, disappointing. Halloween II was as dull as dishwater.
But 31 is a live action horror comic, complete with over the top gory deaths and flamboyant style.
Following his roles in the aforementioned Halloween films, Malcolm McDowell is here again as a punter in the games. Dressed as a French fop, McDowell does what he does best; overacts in a campy manner.
At least Zombie lets him keep his English accent in the films he’s made.
English stalwart of the 1960’s, Judy Geeson (of Sidney Poitier classic To Sir, With Love) appears as McDowell’s opponent.
It’s good to see the old stars, again, as I haven’t seen Geeson in anything for a long time.
Made deliberately as exploitation, 31 takes its inspiration from low budget, drive in movies.
Characters are armed to the teeth with chainsaws, mallets and hatchets while proudly displaying Nazi memorabilia.
A particularly humorous character is the psycho midget, Sick Head. German-accented and dressed like a fetishistic Hitler, Pancho Holer is the highlight of the film.
Funny and brutal, Holer’s stint in the film is all too brief.
You kind of root for him because he’s such a good character. He wouldn’t look out of place in Zombie’s fake Nazi-themed Grindhouse trailer, Werewolf Women of the SS.
David Brake is fantastic as the seriously disturbed Doom Head. With bad teeth and blood forever dripping from his mouth, Brake is a wonderful murderous bastard.
Before it was released, Zombie had to resend the film to the MPAA many times before its more commercial ‘R’ rating was granted. I can’t wait to see the ‘director’s cut’.
It’s not, really, an original story. The idea that people pay to see others run for their life is donkey’s years old.
The plot has echoes of The Running Man and Turkey Shoot with every Nazisploitation film thrown in.
But, none of that matters because what we have is a fun, gory, unrestrained comic horror that is well worth your time.