I MADE A PROMISE TO MYSELF LONG AGO that I wouldn’t be that douchebag that said things like, “No, it was bullshit. It sucked. I hated it,” when referring to art that didn’t vibe with me—there’s no real thought or credibility to those statements. However, Rob Zombie’s latest film tested how far I was willing to go before breaking that promise and exploding with rage in the middle of a crowded movie theater.
Spoiler alert, I broke my promise and made a list of four things I truly loathed about this movie.
The premise: A group of carnies are kidnapped on Halloween and forced to survive 12 hours while being hunted down by a group of killers for the enjoyment of a mysterious group of sadists.
1.The Motherfucking Dialogue, Motherfucker
Straight up, I’m not a prude in any fashion. I’m very aware that a lot of people in the real world drop all kinds of colorful language in casual conversation, but I’m not rooting for them to survive a night of horror. So, when every three words is fuck, bitch, cunt, shit, or bad metaphors like “wet kitty,” I tune out. It’s lazy writing. All your characters start to sound the same, leaving no room for diverse voices or personalities.
Not to mention the long drawn out monologues that border on nonsense. “In hell, everyone loves popcorn,” says Doom-Head (Richard Brake) at the beginning of the film before driving an axe into his victim. Okay? How’s that relevant to anything? Are the victims kernels of popcorn waiting to be popped in this makeshift hell? Are they going to be eaten alive?
If anyone has an opinion on this line, please let me know.
2. We Get It, You Love Clowns
No doubt Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects is one of Zombie’s most iconic characters. Unfortunately, that has more to do with Sid Haig’s charm than Zombie’s killer writing chops. So, here we have 6 different opportunities to really create a variety of baddies for our “heroes” to rise against, but Zombie drops the ball yet again by giving us weak versions of essentially the same character, all with super cool names like Sick-Head, Psycho-Head, etc.
There’s a midget clown covered in swastikas that speaks Spanish, because why not? Two brothers that talk a lot about banging orifices, and then there’s the couple who go by the monikers Sex-Head and Death-Head who look like they robbed Harely Quinn’s Suicide Squad wardrobe before they showed up to work. The entire cast of bad guys feels like Zombie solicited character designs from someone who only listens to Cannibal Corpse.
3. DEAR GOD, HOLD THE CAMERA STILL
There’s a moment where Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie) and her boyfriend Panda (Lawrence Hilton Jacobs) are fighting it out with Schizo-Head (David Ury) and his chainsaw. I know what you’re saying. “Awesome, I’d like to see a chainsaw fight.” Yeah, I did too except what you really get is the equivalent of someone throwing the camera into a dryer, setting that bad boy on high, and walking away.
I don’t know when this style of cinematography started, but the shaky-cam has got to stop. Hold the camera still. It’s not cool or interesting; it’s nauseating. I spent a lot of this movie squinting and asking my buddy, “Wait, they died? When did they get hit with a chainsaw? What is happening in this movie?!?”
4. Repeating Tricks from Past Movies
Several moments stuck out to me as rehashes. One is when the gang stops their van on a deserted road because the 31 goon squad has set up scarecrows as a roadblock. As soon as people start piling out of the van, they get jumped. Some of you might remember a scene similar to this when Rainn Wilson and gang try to leave the Firefly house in 1000 Corpses.
Second, and probably the one that bothered me most, is at the end (SPOILERS), Doom-Head comes across Charly walking down an empty country road. He gets out and the two have what feels like a 100 year stare down to Aerosmith’s classic tune “Dream On.” I didn’t like it in The Devil’s Rejects, and I liked it a hell of a lot less in this movie. Just have them fight or end it five minutes prior, most of us want to go home by now.
Lastly, the end credits. As names are rolling across the screen we’re treated to home video footage of everyone dancing in front of the van. They look like a big happy family, and who knows, maybe I would have found this touching had Zombie not done the same thing at the end of Devil’s Rejects.
Rob Zombie, do you think we’re stupid? Just because good guys are doing it here in 31 instead of a trio of murderers doesn’t give this lazy filmmaking a pass.
I really try to give every film a chance. Having worked on sets growing up, I know how difficult it is to get even amazing works off the ground, but there’s no excuse for 31. This is Zombie’s 6th film and it’s barely a movie. With that said, I’m tapping out, Rob. At least we’ll always have Astro-Creep 2000.
Anthony Trevino is the author of the New Bizarro Author Series 2015-16 novella King Space Void published by Eraserhead Press, the horror comic Fruition, and also made an appearance in the True Detective tribute anthology Walk Hand in Hand into Extinctionfrom CLASH books.