These days, when you see the words “A Rob Zombie Film”, you pretty much know what you’re in for. Zombie’s directorial efforts have carved out a seedy niche that combines grindhouse cinema, foul-mouthed rednecks, and colourfully dressed psychopaths cavorting to sludgy tunes by the man himself and classic cuts from the 1970s. From The House Of 1000 Corpses to the Halloween remake to the 2013 homage to Kubrick, devil worship and his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie’s bum, The Lords Of Salem, Zombie’s films are nothing if not recognisable.
31 tells the tale of a group of carnival workers, Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie), Venus (Meg Foster), Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), Levon (Kevin Jackson) and Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips) who are driving between engagements on Halloween morning and having a fun old time doing so. Naturally, this halcyon period doesn’t last long, and before you can say, “Hey, let’s investigate those creepy scarecrows on the road ahead”, the gang are kidnapped and taken to a massive, labyrinthine building.
Once there, a magnificently wigged Malcolm McDowell (playing a character named Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder, no less) informs the carnies that they’re now playing a game called “31”, in which they must survive for twelve hours in a bizarre, winding maze as homicidal clowns stalk and kill them.
The clowns range from the Nazi-rhetoric spouting little person, Sick-Head (Pancho Moler), to chainsaw wielding nutjobs, Psycho-Head (Lew Temple) and Schizo-Head (David Ury), to the genuinely creepy, Doom-Head (Richard Brake). The majority of the film plays out like a weird pastiche of The Running Man and Battle Royale with splattery slatherings of Zombie’s own The Devil’s Rejects for good measure. It’s bloody and noisy and super stylish, and features some surprisingly solid performances, especially from cult fave, Meg Foster, who gets to be an unexpected bad arse for once.
31 is essentially the perfect Halloween night movie experience. It’s designed to be seen with a group of likeminded sickos, probably under the influence of booze and/or mild hallucinogens, and should be enjoyed on that level. There’s no hidden subtext here or deep thematic discourse. 31 is a balls-to-the-wall splatterfest that will be screening for one night only at locations of all over Australia. If that sounds like your jam, then you’d be a clown to miss out.