The Running Zombie: A Review of 31

The Running Zombie: A Review of 31

I’ve kept up with some of the promotional marketing and news releases for Rob Zombie’s 31 over the last year. The movie’s killer clown purge concept along with the poster below kept my interest in wanting to see which vision of Zombie were we going to get this time. Did it disappoint? Yes and no.

31 is a mesh of everything Zombie has done before with mixing in the grungy roadside horror of House of 1000 Corpses with the tinged and gritty look and feel of The Devil’s Rejects with a sprinkle of Carpenter-esque Halloween here and there.

The film begins abruptly with Richard Brake’s Doom-Head talking into the camera about his exploits as a killer leading to a brutal ending of a captor’s life and it’s a gut punch to get your attention. Brake has acting chops and I found his character to be chilling and comical at the same time. This character could easily have been the very demented version of The Joker that would have taken Ledger’s version in a darker direction. As this sequence ends, we are introduced to Zombie’s staple montage of opening credits that introduces the cast – one being his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, who wasn’t overkill this time and a rag tag team of Carnival workers played by a diversified range of actors including Lawton Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, Jeff Daniel Phillips among several others. It was good to see Meg Foster again since the last time I have personally watched a film with her in it was They Live and Masters of the Universe.

After the strong opening, 31 quickly goes thin as traveling carnies make the typical stop at a gas-station with off-kilter characters, a puppet show and a visit by the mysterious and still lovely, Elizabeth Daily, and like Foster, my last recollection of seeing her in film was her very memorable role as the high school dance band’s lead singer in Better Off Dead (yowza! as seen below) and her role in the Phantasm-ish One Dark Night. But per her IMDB, she’s been damn busy which is good. Daily’s Sex Head character is fully introduced later in the film with another character as a duo and here she channels DC’s Harley Quinn in a subtle way.[vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxllh9XAs9I”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1474583366742{padding-top: 25px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”185″ img_size=”full”]

As the team of carnies are ambushed on a dark road, the movie takes off into what I am now calling this as a horror version of The Running Man. Instead of a game show, this film’s concept is a day where captors have 12 hours to survive whatever horrors this mysterious group of people throws at them. This is where I think Zombie succeeds in the film. The protagonists’ backgrounds are never fully explained except for a small hint at the end. Zombie may have learned a lesson in the over-explanation of horror’s greatest icon, Michael Myers. It took the mystery of a character while here, the mystery somewhat remains.

The mastermind behind the curtain in 31 is Father Murder (portrayed by the always awesome Malcolm McDowell) and his two twisted female compatriots, all dolled up in period make up, ruffles and wigs as if they are waiting to film the introduction for “Tales of Ribaldry.” (SNL reference there).

As 31 progressed, I kept thinking of The Running Man and how each boss level kept raising the stakes. It translates the same way here but as vignettes — from the Spanish Nazi clown (yes, you read that correctly), the big top chainsaw hillbilly clowns to the angelic “Death and Sex” clown duo that had me laughing as I kept thinking of Dynamo’s introduction in The Running Man.

The ending sequences were the strongest parts of this film with Brake’s Doom-Head introduction as the final big boss and his grand entrance which, in my opinion, channels a blend of Krueger and Myers while the soundtrack hints of Carpenter’s Halloween 2 synth textures over his stalking. I really wanted more of that throughout the film.

I’d like to divulge more on the ambitious ending, but overall I think there are some bright spots of horror throughout 31 as there were with Rejects and Halloween. Editing and pacing took me out of what was going on in the film. If Zombie had just straight-up shot this without the freeze-frame/slideshow transitions along with the retread of some staple actors, this could have been a stronger horror film. It’s almost becoming what has ruined American Horror Story for me. Which actor will play who this time? From there you lose any discovery into a film because of that distraction alone.

Should you watch 31 or run from it? If you’re a fan of Zombie’s brand of films and don’t mind a retread here and there… Just know going in that you’re getting the same brand of grungy shock value mixed in with those bright spots of horror. [/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4y5GpF9FZeA”]

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