by Hope Madden
Before heading to the screening of Rob Zombie’s new flick 31, I hopped on imdb to find out how long a film it was. I needed to know whether Chipotle would still be open when the movie got out. While on the site, I happened to notice that 31 possessed a metacritic score of 11.
For those of you new to metacritic, it’s a website that calculates a film’s ratings from major film critics across the globe and offers an aggregate score from 1 to 100. Now, I didn’t read those reviews – I like to go in clean – but still…
It’s Halloween night, 1976. A van full of what appear to be do-it-yourself carnies pulls into a dusty, woebegone Southern gas station and meets a couple of creepy characters.
You’ve seen at least one horror movie in your life. You know things cannot end well for everyone involved. But if you’re familiar with Zombie’s work, you’ll know that 31 is neither a spoof nor a ripoff. Every film in Zombie’s repertoire is a mishmash homage to everything from slashers to Blaxploitation flicks to grindhouse movies to the “savage cinema” of the Seventies. 31 is no different, except that the mishing and mashing don’t work especially well.
The homages continue with the cast. As is the director’s way, Zombie’s populated his overly familiar yet strangely mismatched world with similarly remembered yet out-of-place faces. Favorites Sheri Moon Zombie (natch), Jeff Daniel Phillips and Malcolm McDowell join Laurence Hilton-Jacobs (that’s right! Boom Boom Washington, people!), Meg Foster and Richard Brake in a game of death on Halloween night. (31 – get it?)
The writing is dreadful and the acting worse. While Zombie’s attempts at humor may make you recoil, the carnage itself is generally uninspired. He contrasts the grimy fight on the ground with a weirdly opulent games-masters celebration (powdered wigs and all). What I’ve learned is that you can bedeck Malcolm McDowell with all the frilly collars and broaches you like, he can’t deliver with a shitty script. And if he can’t manage, what’s a hack like Sheri Moon Zombie supposed to do with it?
“You want to know what’s in this head of mine? I’ll tell you what’s in this head of mine. What’s in this head of mine is…”
Do you know what that is?
That’s bad writing.
Is 31 an 11? No. It’s probably a 31 – not bad enough to be memorable, not good enough to pay to see.
The great news, though, is that Chipotle was still open.