Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rob Zombie|
|Written by||Rob Zombie|
|Music by||John 5|
|Edited by||Glenn Garland|
|Distributed by||Saban Films|
31 is a 2016 American horror film written and directed by Rob Zombie, and starring an ensemble cast featuring Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Meg Foster, Richard Brake, Malcolm McDowell, Judy Geeson, and Jane Carr. The film revolves around five carnival workers’ survival playing a game called “31” while evading murderers known as “The Heads” dressed as clowns that have names reflecting their various personalities.
During Halloween 1976, a group of carnival workers, Charly, Venus, Panda, Levon, and Roscoe, are attacked and taken to a strange, large building where three elderly people wearing aristocratic clothes, powdered wigs and make up, Sister Dragon, Sister Serpent, and their leader Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder, tell them that they are going to play the game “31” and that it will last for the next 12 hours. The group is placed in a series of maze-like set of rooms, where they must defend themselves against the “Heads”, several murderous clowns who intend to torture and murder them, all the while the group are given odds for their survival and bets are placed on them.
The protagonists come across five “Heads”, Sick-Head, Psycho-Head, Schizo-Head, Death-Head, and Sex-Head. The carnies eventually manage to kill their assailants, but not without sustaining their own casualties, with only Charly, Venus, and Roscoe left alive. The remaining three try to find a way out, but only manage to get one of their number—Venus—trapped inside a boiler room, where she is brutally murdered by the final Head, Doom-Head, who was brought in by the aristocrats to join the game. Doom-Head taunts Charly and Roscoe, telling them that the doors have been opened to the outside world.
The two manage to make it to one of the exits, however Roscoe urges Charly to go on without him, as the night’s event has left him too severely wounded to progress. Roscoe is then stabbed to death by Doom-Head. Charly, who made it outside but found herself in the middle of nowhere, makes her way into an abandoned house where she is ambushed by Doom-Head. He almost overtakes her, however Doom-Head is stopped by the aristocrats, who tell him that time has run out and Charly must go free. This doesn’t satisfy Doom-Head and the film ends with Charly walking down an isolated road while a van is driving behind her. The driver, revealed to be Doom-Head, gets out and walks towards Charly as the two prepare for one last confrontation as the film ends, leaving their fates unknown.
- Sheri Moon Zombie as Charly/#5
- Jeff Daniel Phillips as Roscoe Pepper/#3
- Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Panda Thomas/#1
- Meg Foster as Venus Virgo/#2
- Richard Brake as Doom-Head
- Malcolm McDowell as Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder
- Judy Geeson as Sister Dragon
- Jane Carr as Sister Serpent
- Pancho Moler as Sick-Head
- Lew Temple as Psycho-Head
- David Ury as Schizo-Head
- E.G. Daily as Sex-Head
- Torsten Voges as Death-Head
- Ginger Lynn as Cherry Bomb
- Tracey Walter as Lucky Leo
- Daniel Roebuck as Pastor Victor
- Devin Sidell as Georgina Victor
- Kevin Jackson as Levon Wally/#4
- Michael “Red Bone” Alcott as Fat Randy Bumpagussy
- Esperanza America as Snoopy
- Andrea Dora as Trixie
- Gabriel Pimentel as Brumaire
Plans to create 31 were first announced in May 2014 via a teaser poster that showed the words “a Rob Zombie film”, a bloody clown face, and the number “31”. Fans and media outlets speculated that the film would be a third film in the House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects universe and would follow Sid Haig‘s character Captain Spaulding, that it could be a film centering upon serial killer John Wayne Gacy, or that it would be a third film in Zombie’s rebooted Halloween film series. Zombie commented on the speculation, stating that it would not follow Captain Spaulding and would be an original story and was not based on any previous work. He also noted that 31 referred to October 31, Halloween. In July, Zombie announced the plot of 31, which follows a group of five people that are forced to participate in a gruesome game called “31”. Zombie also stated that he would use crowdfunding to cover part of the movie’s costs, because “as the years go on, the game changes all the time, and a movie that you could get made years ago, you cannot get made anymore, because the business changes, things change.” He added that crowdfunding would allow him to make a movie that might not have been otherwise funded traditionally and that “if you wanna do stuff outside the system, you’ve gotta function outside the system”. Zombie later held a second Fanbacked.com campaign in February 2015 to raise additional funds for the film, stating that it was due to multiple requests from fans that wanted to contribute funding.
Zombie came up with the idea for 31 after reading a statistic that stated that Halloween is the “Number One day of the year when people go missing for some reason” and thought that it would make a good premise for a movie. He also received inspiration for the film as he was walking around his frightfest Great American Nightmare and watched the employees work while dressed like chainsaw-carrying clowns. Zombie has stated that he wanted to have a “very nasty, gritty, guerilla-style approach to the filmmaking” for 31, as it “fits the story and the vibe of the movie”. Zombie began scouting locations in the summer of 2014 and initial filming was slated to begin in February 2015, but did not commence until that March. Filming for 31 wrapped in April 2015.
31 premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016. In March 2016, Saban Films announced that they had acquired distribution rights for 31 and that they would be giving it a limited theatrical release on September 16, 2016.
On September 1, Fathom Events hosted a special premiere of 31 in cinemas across the United States. The event included world premieres of the “Gore Whore” music video, a one-on-one Q&A with Zombie, and a behind-the-scenes look.
31 was submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America twice and both times received an NC-17 rating. The description as given by the MPAA notes “sadistic graphic violence, bizarre sexuality/nudity, pervasive disturbing images and some strong language.” On January 5, 2016, the film was finally granted an “R” rating for “strong bloody horror violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use”. Zombie later told a fan on Facebook that the “Zombie Cut” would eventually be released on DVD and would include the uncut version.
The film holds an approval rating of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews and has an average rating of 5.3 out of 10. The site’s consensus reads, “31 delivers all the high-energy gore Rob Zombie fans have come to expect, but a lack of fresh ideas and likable characters mean only the already converted need apply.” On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score of 35 out of 100 based on 13 reviews, indicating “generally unfavorable reviews.”
Much of the film’s negativity centered around claims that the film felt forced and unoriginal, with Variety writing that the “energetic exercise in forced badassery will be too silly and self-conscious to feel genuinely edgy, despite all the blood spilt and familiar taboos violated.”
The film received praise from Bloody Disgusting which claimed “31 is Rob Zombie’s The Running Man and it works.” Trent Wilkie of Fangoria gave the film a mixed review saying “It is violent and campy, with the requisite sex, blood, profanity and gore. But ultimately, it feels rushed and leaves one with the sense of an unfinished idea.” However, Jerry Smith, also writing for Fangoria put it on his years “Top Ten” list saying “31 is a mean as hell, take no prisoners exploitation film filled to the absolute brim with mean as all hell clowns, carnies and by far one of the best horror performances of the year.”
Shock Till You Drop gave the film approval with a caveat saying “Rob Zombie’s 31 succeeds as a throwback to the days of quickie exploitation movies. That’s exactly what it is trying to be, and what it is. So, if you want caviar, keep looking. But if you are in the mood for a candy-colored bacon cheeseburger of a flick with extra grease and BBQ sauce, 31 is for you.” In a similar vein, Film School Rejects commented that “31 is Zombie’s mildly entertaining take on a stale and simple setup. You already know if it’s for you.”
Awards and nominations
|BloodGuts UK Horror Awards||Best Actor||Richard Brake||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Malcolm McDowell||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Meg Foster||Nominated|
|Fangoria Chainsaw Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Richard Brake||Pending|
|Fright Meter Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Richard Brake||Won|
|Best Score||John 5, Rob Zombie||Nominated|
|Best Makeup||Wayne Toth||Nominated|
31 was exclusively released on Shudder two weeks before being released on DVD. The film was release on DVD and Blu-ray on December 20, 2016. The home release contained a behind the scenes documentary (two hour version on DVD/Blu, four hour version on VOD) directed by Josh Hasty.