The thing is…I’m a fan. Of Rob Zombie. As a director, that is. I really know almost nothing about his music. But I tend to like what he’s created as a filmmaker. His instincts are strong, and I appreciate his aesthetic. It’s just that I never LOVE his stuff. He always someone just misses hitting the bullseye. For instance, parts of 2013’s “The Lords of Salem” proved to me that he’s someone to be reckoned with in the world of horror. But even there, in arguably his strongest work, he’d find a way to muck it up just a bit.
But still, I’m a fan. I like how a group of carny people get trapped in a maze-like building and are forced to fight for their lives against a variety of murderous protagonists called “Heads”. There is Sick-Head, Psycho-Head, Death-Head, Schizo-Head, Sex-Head…and Doom-Head. And they are all kind of distinct, interesting, and uncompromising.. It’s cool that a trio of folks in powdered wigs and aristocratic clothing, are running the malevolent game, via hidden cameras. It’s awesome that Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Meg Foster are two of the carny people, and that Malcolm McDowell is the head aristocrat. And Sheri Moon Zombie keeps improving as an actress…plus she’s super hot.
However, Zombie could legitimately be accused, of a certain self-consciousness here. Some of “31” feels a bit forced, with allusions to better films like “The Most Dangerous Game” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. I’m certain that it’s meant as homage, but certain choices don’t always stand on their own. But Zombie has the depravity thing down, and this movie is never less than entertainingly ugly and violent. This is a man who knows and respects the horror genre, even if he hasn’t quite mastered it yet as a creator. But keep trying, Rob. It’s always fascinating to experience the attempt, and I promise to keep on watching. Oh, and as Doom-Head, Richard Brake kicks ass.