When it comes to Rob Zombie, you know what you’re letting yourself in for: gratuitous violence, visual homages to ‘70s Americana, an unwavering devotion to Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and of course, his wife Sheri Moon Zombie getting far more screen time than an actress of her calibre deserves.
Labelled a creatively bankrupt imitator by his detractors, the musician turned director has nonetheless shown over the years that he understands the grindhouse genre and occasionally delivered the slasher goods, with The Devil’s Rejects and the mildly underrated Halloween II. However, 31 is a whole new low, a genuinely awful and ill-disciplined film that should have been a demented remake of The Running Man but instead ends up as a perfunctory mash-up of all of his previous films. Even Zombie fans will recognise that it’s not transgressive enough to shock, too uninventive to scare and, most damning of all, comes off as a cheap, fanboy-written and directed parody of a Rob Zombie film.
Only Richard Brake, who appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, is watchable: his chilling presence shows us what an R-rated Joker could look like, in what is the most terrifying iteration of the DC character yet. That minor exception aside, Zombie’s masturbatory misfire only goes to prove his detractors right. Don’t waste your time this Halloween.
31 | Directed by Rob Zombie (USA, 2016) with Sheri Moon Zombie, Richard Brake, Malcolm McDowell. Starts October 27.