2016 Richard Brake, Sheri Moon Zombie, Roscoe Pepper
Heavy rocker turned film director Rob Zombie has made his fair share of films over the last decade or so, his latest instalment 31, pits 5 carnival workers against a gang of twisted clowns as they try and survive for 12 hours.
If you are familiar with Zombie's previous works you will know roughly what to expect, black humour, torture, rape and gallons of blood. All these trademarks are present in this film but I cant help thinking he has streamlined his style, simple and honest are the name of the game here. While House of 1000 Corpses was a psychedelic blood bath and The Devils Rejects was a ultra realistic manson-esque thrill ride, 31 veers down the Running Man meets Hostel route.
The film open with a delightfully twisted introduction by Richard Brake as the menacing Doomhead. We soon learn he is talking to his latest victim a bloodied and bound priest, who after a few words of wisdom he proceeds to dispatch with a rather blunt axe. So perfectly shot and gripping was this scene that I went in immediately with expectations through the roof, unfortunately I would soon come back down to earth with a bump.
After we are introduced to our main characters and they are promptly kidnapped and placed into the game, we are then introduced to their first opponent. Itching for more Doomhead action I waited with baited breath, however what I got instead was a Spanish dwarf dressed as Adolf Hitler..... no really.
Sadly this was a recurring theme with the film, every time something really brutal or gripping happened, in the next breath something completely ridiculous or obscene would happen. This constant back and forth of styles was often frustrating and I could never really find my groove. It was like there was a divide between good acting and the downright bad. There is flashy and tense fight scene between our heroes and 2 chainsaw wielding clowns. The scene is well choreographed and features a bloody finale. This scene would have been perfect if the 2 clowns in question would stop making rape jokes and going all out to offend everybody in the room.
Now I am far from a prude and i go into a Rob Zombie film expecting to be shocked and appalled (that's part of his charm) but there were moments that tried way too hard. This is a real shame because there were a few memorable moments here.
Sheri Moon Zombie has definitely got better the more films she appears in, here she took on the role of the reluctant hero, becoming an expert clown killer by the end of the film! In fact most of the band of 5 heroes were all very convincing even if they weren't necessarily the type of people you would root for. Rob Zombie loves to play with characters that the audience hates at first but gradually warms to as time goes on, these people are all horrible and probably deserve it yet I wanted them to succeed. nobody writes these role as good as him.
Another big strength of the film is it's soundtrack, being set in the 1970's down in the deep south we get some cracking tunes to accompany the bloodshed. Aerosmith, Kitty Wells and Lynyrd Skynryd among the pile.
For fans of his previous films there is a lot to like here, but Rob Zombie has also tried to streamline his style it seems and made a fairly solid feature. Inconsistencies in tone and acting quality let in down in a number of places but it isn't enough to completely turn you off. Come for the gore, stay for Richard Brake and Aerosmith.