Gore > Style > Substance. A disappointing way of approaching directing, Rob Zombie frustrates because he shows flashes of talent, but leans too heavily on tired formula. He prides bloody violence over character development, relies on shoddy writing to fill in the gaps between bloodshed, and fails to distinguish this horror film from being another straight-to-DVD exercise in banality.
’31’ is about a trio of social elitists who orchestrate kidnappings, throw their victims in an elaborate maze/trap, and then make bets on who’ll die next in the 12 hour game against an array of cartoonishly named, freakishly dressed serial killers sporting all kinds of killing tools. The setup is nothing special, and the characters are all lame, spouting cliched lines and crude quips which can’t mask how one-dimensional and expendable they all are. It doesn’t help that the acting is terrible from the cast, with Zombie’s wife doing little to justify why she’s in this line of work.
The most promising character is ‘Doom-Head’ played by Richard Brake, who slips into his psychopathic role with enough gusto to prove threatening and at least slightly interesting – particularly his opening monologue sequence nicely shot in black-and-white. Sadly, Rob Zombie does little to appeal to anyone but gorehounds throughout the 100 minutes, offering up glimpses of artistic horror, but then regressing back to wonky camerawork, poor editing and over-the-top gore which lets down its admittedly impressive and grimy set design.
In the hands of someone else, ’31’ could have been frightening and bloodthirsty in equal measure but, unfortunately, Rob Zombie’s horror film strays into familiar territory and dishes out gratuitous violence with little skill.
Score – 5/10