Are you scared of clowns? Sure, you are. All good people fear clowns. However, if you somehow do not find clowns to be frightening, you may change your mind after seeing Rob Zombie’s latest film, 31.
Of course, that’s assuming that you actually see 31. 31 is not a film for everyone. In fact, if you’re not a fan of Rob Zombie or his style of horror, you should probably stay miles away from 31. Bloody, intense, violent, and occasionally rather nihilistic, 31 is perhaps the Rob Zombiest of all the films that Rob Zombie has ever made.
However, if you’re a fan of extreme horror, you’ll appreciate 31. It may not always be easy to take but then again, that’s kind of the point.
The film takes place in the 70s, which means that it has a really kickass soundtrack. A group of carnival workers are driving across the desert in a van when they are attacked and kidnapped. They find themselves in a dark building, being lectured by three people who are dressed like 18th century French aristocrats. The leader of the aristocrats (played by Malcolm McDowell) informs them that they are going to playing a game called 31. For the next twelve hours, they will be locked away in a maze. They will be hunted by five murderous clowns.
Yes, you read that right. Not just one murderous clowns — FIVE! (Even worse, a sixth bonus clown eventually joins the game.)
If they can survive for 12 hours, they win. What do they win? Other than freedom, the film is never particular clear on this point. The motives of the aristocrats remain a mystery for the majority of the film. Are they just sadists, are they perhaps devote fans of The Purge who were so disappointed with Election Year that they decided to recreate the second film on their own, or is there some bigger reason behind this game of 31? The film leaves the question for us to answer.
The rest of the film is a collection of progressively more violent fights between the carnival workers and the clowns. For the most part, the carnival workers are all likable and you don’t want to see any of them harmed. The clowns, meanwhile, are just about the freakiest collection of killers that you’ve ever seen. When one of them is cornered, he pathetically begs, “We’re all pawns! We don’t want to do this!” but you never quite believe him. The deadliest of the clowns is Doom-Head (Richard Brake) and his evil smirk will give you nightmares.
31 is an incredibly intense film and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Everything from the acting to the set design to the costumes to David Daniel’s stark cinematography comes together to make 31 into a harrowing horror film. If you can’t stand Zombie’s trademark mayhem, I would suggest avoiding 31. However, if you’re a fan of Zombie’s films, you’ll find 31 to be perhaps the purest distillation of his artistic vision.