CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS, FOR ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD REASON
In news that is likely to surprise absolutely nobody who hasn't been living in a cave on the dark side of Neptune for the last twenty years, Rob Zombie has a new movie out and it's terrible. I know, who'd have imagined? Blowing an idiot-shaped hole in my New Year's Resolution to steer clear of obviously rubbish films, it's left me scrabbling furiously around for some kind of defence against the charge of adding the damned, damnable thing to my rental queue in the first place: Malcolm McDowell usually delivers the goods, it played on FrightFest's main screen last year, Mr Zombie's last film The Lords Of Salem was almost competent in parts....
Whatever: those aren't defences, they're just excuses. Rob Zombie's brief flirtation with the idea of being mildly interesting was clearly a one-night stand and not the start of a long term relationship as with the meaninglessly-titled 31 he's scurried back to his usual territory of Crazy Mad Things That Happen For Absolutely No Good Reason. A random assortment of travelling carnival workers is ambushed on the road: they wind up locked in an abandoned industrial plant and have twelve hours to survive the parade of colourful Crazy Mad whackos sent in by Gamesmasters Malcolm McDowell and Judy Geeson, wearing Carry On Don't Lose Your Head aristo wigs and white facepaint For Absolutely No Good Reason. (Quite how they even know what's going on, given that it's 1976 and there don't appear to be any cameras down there, is anyone's guess.)
So every reel or so a crazy mad maniac with a stupid name (Doom Head, Sex Head, Psycho Head) and a chainsaw or an axe shows up and our supposed heroes have to man up and kill in order to survive. In the event, they do, and as wimpy civilians they prevail against what are supposed to be top of the line mad killers - particularly the ultimate Doom Head who may wield a mean fireaxe but so loves the sound of his own prattling that he literally filibusters his own rampage by talking over the twelve hour final whistle, the absolute idiot. The big splatter setpiece of two simultaneous attacks with chainsaws is rendered incoherent in the editing suite, to the extent that I genuinely thought different characters had got killed. (Apparently they had to shoot that whole sequence in just eight hours, but that's not a defence, just an excuse.)
Why are there naked women wandering around? Why is the opening sequence in black and white? Why is it even called 31? Absolutely No Good Reason. I've no idea and Zombie has no idea either. He's more interested in shrieking riffs on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (why else have a crazy mad gas station attendant near the start?) together with an indulgence of gratuitous grindhouse excess, a recipe that frankly got boring halfway through House Of 1000 Corpses and has never really gone away. The Devil's Rejects was intolerable garbage, Halloween was only vaguely interesting when he was pretending to be John Carpenter and Halloween II didn't even have that. And this is just more of the same: bleak, nihilistic, violent and, for all the blood and shrieking, crashingly, crushingly dull. Not unexpected, given his track record, but it raises the question of why I bothered to watch it. Answer: For Absolutely No Good Reason.