Review Rating: 7
There’s no real point to an introductory paragraph for this movie, so like Rob Zombie and his singular movie-making style, we’re just gonna dive right into this. No mercy, no pity, and no escape, we’re falling headlong into another Zombie world.
Things kick off with this black and white world of a psycho clown terrorizing a victim in a priests collar, a-rantin and a-ravin to his terrified audience of one. This goes on for a while, and is abruptly ended by an axe in the guts. Now, while I’m personally all for rants from what appears to be the main villain (or one of them anyway), the opening salvo from he whom we learn later is known as Doom-head has no real bearing on what comes later. It kind of reminded me of that gross poor soul in Human Centipede 2, and that can never be a compliment.
Well anyway, backward we go to October 31st, 1979 (it says so in the tagline) and a van-full of what are apparently circus performers. And here, oh man it was inevitable, we are introduced to the eternal Sheri Moon Zombie character in every single last one of RZ’s movies, this one a simpering kerchief-wrapped chick called Charly. Roscoe Pepper is the standard muscle-man braindead type, though he does show some small bits of chivalry when shit pops off. Panda is the token black Rasta character, complete with the accent and the weed; hell, he could be considered the main token black character, as poor Levon is the first to bite it when our circus gang get where they never expected to go. And rounding out our weird-ass gang of friends, we have Venus Virgo, veteran of the circus act trade, a fighter who really should have gotten a better shot at this sick game the Scooby gang is forced into.
A stop at a self-serve gas station and some seriously odd conversations later, and hey next thing we know, Malcolm McDowell in French powdery getup is telling us it’s time for the hunting game known as 31! (I never quite understood why the Big Game itself is called ‘31’, unless it’s always held on Halloween every year.) Other fiends in French wigs and dresses are betting large sums of money on our now-numbered circus gang’s survivability, and indeed, throughout the time period of the Big Game, Father Murder pauses to announce the odds on our victims as they go up or down.
In theory, the game is simple: survive the next twelve hours, no matter what kind of insane hunter is thrown at the gang. The circus performers are even given dubious weapons, though most of them are unable to put them to effective use. And then we have the hunters, each of whom are named “something-head”, such as Doom-Head. Each hunter dresses and acts for maximum, I guess, shock effect, though how effective it truly is remains to be seen. I personally had a really hard time trying to see Sick-Head, the midget hunter dressed in Nazi clown regalia spouting Spanish (I’m not even kidding either), as anything other than a complete joke.
But we go through other hunters and most of our victims, until the victims begin to fight back better and Father Murder ups the ante, calling in their best hunter, we recognize him from the ranting intro, Doom-head, to take care of this years’ victims left once and for all.
There is a good deal of the feel of desolate roads and endless desert hell that RZ tried diligently to portray in The Devil’s Rejects, plus that throwback nightmare homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and of course Zombie’s own personal Dark Carnival style in 31. Legend says Zombie read somewhere a statistic that said Halloween is the number one night of the year where people go missing inexplicably, and thought it would be a good premise for a movie. The poignancy of the final end scene does kind of bring that thought home, but it was never particularly expressed in the movie itself, and without it, the film is a kind of forgery unto itself, perhaps lacking in originality but sure ready to make up for it with gore and enthusiasm – like most of Rob Zombie’s horror film work.