Featuring: Sherri “The Lords of Salem” Moon Zombie , Richard “DOOM” Brake , Jeff Daniel “Westworld (2016)” Phillips
Director & Writer: Rob “The Devil’s Rejects” Zombie
Hey kids! One concept I tried to get over in The Tomb’s dark age was The Zodiac of Anubis, in which every year a specific movie monster would get the annual spotlight of having a review done on their sub-genre each month. After considering resurrecting the Zodiac for the last couple o’ calendars, I’ve finally decided this is the year. As such, I bid you welcome as we begin, “The Year of the Painted Horrors”!
With the public panic about dickheads donning clown costumes and menacingly loitering around parks and wooded areas in recent weeks, I thought the pariahs of the Barnum & Bailey family would be the best subject for celebration. Per this event, every 13th day up to September 2017 will be dedicated to movies centralized on greasepainted gore makers. In a matter of cosmic coincidence, look at what just happened to release recently – a Rob Zombie movie about murderous clowns! Call it kismet, call it circumstance, whatever you call it, the Roadhouse Necromancer himself calls it 31.
Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, one thing that’s irrefutable is Zombie’s superiority to Uwe Boll. All personal opinions aside, if going by no other metric, the propagator of sinister urges clearly trumps the defiler of video game franchises when it comes to the crowdfunding arts. After a pair of failures to get his project Rampage 3 financed (first via IndieGoGo and again through Kickstarter), Boll went on a rampage of his own, throwing a fit online with a meltdown video where he basically told everyone to fuck themselves. Who would’ve thought people wouldn’t be willing to donate their money to someone who makes SHITTY movies for the purpose of making MORE shitty movies? On the other side of the coin, Rob Zombie’s FanBacked campaign netted him… an as-yet-undisclosed amount. Kinda sketchy. And I’m presuming a lot of that money came from the reward tier that included lifetime VIP passes to every Rob Zombie show, so I don’t know how accurate a gauge it is in determining the number of people who were just chomping at the bit for another installment in the Zombie filmography… BUT, whatever the case, my prior statement stands – Rob Zombie is better than Uwe Boll at crowfunding! Game over!
Some people piss and moan about crowdfunded projects, and 31 isn’t lacking in such detractors. Cries of “Pay for your own movie, loser!” ring throughout the internet, but said people are missing the point of these endeavors. The real reason for such independent efforts at collecting capital are two fold – to gauge consumer interest in such a product and to cut out the corrupting influence of deep pocket financiers. For example, I run The Tomb free of advertisements because I don’t want to be beholden to any company execs bitching at me about my offensive words and concepts, or how I should only review big movie stuff so as to up click traffic. Fucketh that. Now, I was hoping to somehow monetize the site for the purposes of having it support itself, so I put up the Patreon page to test the waters and see if these reviews and ramblings were worthwhile of readers’ pennies. Unfortunately, since I’ve yet to acquire a single contributor (even after offering exclusive Patreon only reviews to make it worth said patronage), it’s clear that I’ve yet to find an audience willing to bridge the gap between readers and customers. THIS is why 31 was made and Rampage 3 was not – there are enough people willing to put their hard earned buckets of duckets behind another Rob Zombie project than there are willing to get behind another Uwe Boll movie. Having never been in a position where I could afford to lend my support to someone else’s creative vision, I more than appreciate those who are in that position, because without them, people like myself wouldn’t be able to see the fruits of those labors. You’re doin’ the work of the gods, kids. Just don’t GoFund any magic bean gardens, cuz the only goose those’ll lead you to will be on your bank account. Insert your own “grab ’em by the pussy” joke here, because the more I have to think about that garbage, the more I die inside.
Now, what’s all this 31 stuff aboot?
In an interview with Fangoria, Zombie said that fans were pretty insistent that they wanted his next run behind the camera to be another movie focused on the trio of domestic terrorists who took center stage in his first flicks, House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. Instead, he opted to respond with something new. He noted that people didn’t know even know they wanted The Devil’s Rejects before the movie was made, so rather than play it fiscally safe by supplying consumers with more of what they demand, he chose to play Russian Roulette and tried to convince them to pay for something new… well, something heavily “borrowed” from other movies, but technically altered to be something new… and hopefully some big studio copyright lawyers don’t catch wind of it and attempt to sue everyone involved with its making… like Bobby Z’s philanthropic followers, perhaps? I mean, I’m no law school graduate but… actually, that means in a legal situation I have less legs to stand on than the titular heroin of Boxing Helena. Ignore me on that. The same way Horus ignored me on my birthday.
Yeah, I’m not forgetting that anytime soon. Go eat a box of uncooked Rice-A-Roni, you bird faced fuck boy.
Unlike many of his last few movies, 31 is a simple A-Z tale. Much like House of 1000 Corpses, it centers on a group of happy-go-lucky buddies, trapped in a “The Most Dangerous Game” struggle for survival against sadistic predators who revel in their perceived vulnerability. In this instance, said dangerous game isn’t man, but a literal game called “31”, because of its annual occurrence on October 31st aka Halloween. This numerical factoid was part of why so many people were sure this project was originally going to be the finale of Zombie’s Halloween trilogy, only spurred on by the use of a shabby clown mask in early promotional material. Mayhaps eluding to little Mikey Myers’ use of a clown mask when he went on his inaugural killing spree as a kid? Nope. Turns out the clown mask was just a precursor to the 31 “hunters”, who are clowns… from Satan’s 666 Ring Circus of Eternal Sin and Suffering! Formerly known as the Playboy Mansion aka Hugh Hefner’s Whore House of Soul Crushing Defilement for Rich Old Men and Washed-Up Comedians. I wonder how many of the bunnies forced to give handjobs to Rob Schneider and John Lovitz in the grotto opted for “eternal peace” over lifetimes of PTSD.
The organizers of this carnival of blood are a trio of Ruling Class sadists named Father Murder (Malcolm McDowell), Sister Serpent (Jane Carr) and Sister Dragon (Judy Geeson). They have the Eyes Wide Shut naked lady servants waiting on them, while they dress like French aristocrats with heavy pancake makeup and elaborate powdered wigs. Their hired gang of buffoon goons wear face paint and are all saddled with the odd surname of “Head” for some reason. We start with the Latino Nazi midget Sick-Head (Pancho Moler). This twisted and hateful half-man is followed up by a pair of chainsaw wielding brothers in Leatherface masks (made up like Otis and Captain Spaulding) called Schizo- and Pyscho-Head (David Ury & Lew Temple). Next is another pairing, consisting of the brutal bohemoth (and near-copyright infringingly named) Death-Head (Torsten Voges) and his creepy little perv-o girlfriend Sex-Head (E.G. FUCKING Daily!) who’s just a less savage version of Sherri Moon-Zombie’s Baby Doll character dressed like a porn parody of Harley Quinn.
Be forewarned: among her many roles over the expanse of her career, E.G. Daily’s resume includes being the voice of Tommy Pickles on “Rugrats”. During one scene, where Sex-Head is crying in agony (spoiler, deal with it), she sounds like Tommy fucking Pickles. Yeah. Process that how you will.
Finally, there’s Doom-Head (Richard Brake). Doom-Head, who is the main reason to watch this movie. Holy shit. I didn’t know I was a Richard Brake fan until I watched 31. As generic as the rest of this movie may be, this motherfucker makes it unforgettable for me. He opens the movie going on a murderous soliloquy with one of his previous year’s victims that injects our brains with a massive dose of the heebie-jeebies. Not spooky shit, like the monster at the end of [REC], but that gut twisting “there are actually people like this in the darkest septic tanks of humanity” terror that makes you want to hide away from the world forever and buy stock in Smith & Wesson. Remember the Bloodhound Gang song, “A Lap Dance Is So Much Better”? If The Dick Braker here read those lyrics, I might throw up, because he could get them across ten times more nauseating than they already are. It’d make hearing trump talk about sexually assaulting women sound like Mary Poppins reading Dr. Seuss in comparison. Just thinking about it is agitating my chili dinner something fierce, so I’m gonna stop before I get a ghost pepper lodged in my sinuses. Again. Uggh.
Wait a minute! How the fuck does Zombie make a movie where all of the killers have “Head” in their name, and he doesn’t include one named “Iron Head”?! Granted, it wasn’t one of the better tracks off of The Sinister Urge, but this is the perfect place to bring the “demonoid phenomenon” juggernaut demigod to flesh (and iron)! Wasted opportunity.
And now, for the least interesting part of any Rob Zombie movie – the protagonists. This year’s victims of 31 are a motor home full of carnies! Yep, in keeping with our writer/director’s favored aesthetic of “Texas white trash chic”, the unsung heroes (and appropriately disparaged villains) of the midway take center stage, captured by a gaggle of mask wearing hijackers who stop them along a deserted highway in the middle of the night. Half the crew are killed in the exchange, while the remaining quintet are knocked out and taken away, waking up later in shackles. Of these five, if you think anyone other than the one played by Zombie’s wife Sherri is going to be the mandatory “final girl”, then you aren’t familiar with the esteem in which Bobbie Z holds his bride… except for the constant torment he puts her through with all of the fake blood and harassment and making her do her own stunts and shit. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out she files a temporary restraining order against her husbo after filming wraps on every movie they do to avoid having to file divorce papers instead… until the next movie, anyway.
Aside from being victims, there’s nothing to really make you care if the good guys live or die. There are some canned moments where they’ll comfort each other or defend each other and try to force that “these people aren’t just friends, they’re family” moment to no avail. Not quite as useless as treating cancer with a mix of Robitussin and prayer, but ineffective enough. The same could be said for the last 10 minutes of the movie, which… just… fuck it, I’m not gonna break my vow. Why bother giving us balloons if your endgame is just to pop ’em, Mr. Zombie? Dick.
Speaking of “Dick”, let’s get back to the load bearer of the movie, Richard Brake. Because I’d rather talk about him instead. Given that Brake featured fairly prominently into the movie version of DOOM, I’m curious if that was the motivation behind the name “Doom-Head”. Of further interesting ponderances to ponder, Brake played Joe Chill in Batman Begins, the otherwise unspectacular street thug who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. In Tim Burton’s Batman, Joe Chill was replaced by Jack Napier, who would go on to become Jack Nicholson’s immortal portrayal of The Joker… an evil clown. Is it fate that Richard Brake, who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, has now gone on to become a psychopathic serial killing clown too? No. Because fate’s not a thing. Those hags at the loom? They’re the Wimp-Los of mythology. We just play along while laughing at them behind their backs.
31‘s themes map out as if it’s the result of a weekend tour bus nerd binge by Zombie between performances. Borrowing heavily from Rockstar’s Manhunt games (kidnapped protagonist must fight his way out of a giant snuff film version of The Warriors) and/or The Running Man (unwilling “contestants” are chosen to fight for their lives in a game show where they’re hunted by murderous characters, each with their own gimmick), with a dash of “The Hunger Games” (the impoverished are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of wealthy people in extravagant costumes), a pinch of Marvel Comics (a circus themed arena of death just straight up called “Murderworld” for fuck’s sake!), then sifted through a grindhouse era filter (“scratched film” visual effect, grimy tones, gore and depravity are key), and finally sifted again through a filter of one of the worst filming methods to come out of the 21st century (fucking SHAKEY CAM!). There’s a nod to The Rocky Horror Picture Show‘s infamous dinner scene for dessert, minus the whimsical birthday hats and the tense atmosphere of everybody at the table having cheated on each other with everybody else. Despite my enjoyment for most of these things (or maybe in spite of it), what we get is an overall recipe for… mediocrity.
I get that Zombo grew up on horror movies and comic books and all that jazz that most people who come to this site probably share an affinity for, but COME ON! When are we going to get something more original out of this guy?! House of 1,000 Corpses was an homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Lords of Salem was an homage to Rosemary’s Baby. Halloween was a reboot and an overt homage to Frankenstein by trying to give the monster context and sympathy. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto was an homage to Fritz the Cat and every other crazy-ass Ralph Bakshi cartoon ever made, starring a character that’s just a goofy version of El Santo or Blue Demon. Even his most loved movie, The Devil’s Rejects is basically just a white trash mash up of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place”!
Okay, that last part was mostly a joke (mostly), but you get my gist.
I can understand Bob’s preference to direct his own scripts, as I too have control issues, but I’d like to see him direct something that’s both original and written by someone else. And that doesn’t include Sherri on the cast. It’s nothing personal against her, I don’t even mind her as an actress, it’s just part of my wanting a vacation from the same old same. We’ve been watching the man’s stuff since 2003. We’re overdue on the seven year itch, Rob. You talk about giving people something different, but all you did was rehash your older stuff and berate us with shaky cam shit. You’re not Michael Bay, nor should you wanna be. Just stop it. I haven’t paid for one of your albums since “The Sinister Urge” man, and I’m verging on skipping your next movie at this rate too…
But who gives a clown-shaped shit what I think? Opinions are like assholes – we’ve all got one. I’m just here to make jokes and channel my disdain for life in a fashion that won’t end with me behind bars sharing a toilet with some IBS suffering serial rapist. And on that note, cue the end credits!
So begins The Year of the Painted Horrors. I’ll have more clownin’ around for you come November 13th! Until then, we’ve still got two more weeks of Rocktober Blood to spill, so be sure to check back for more journeys into motherfucking terror with your ol’ pal, Five-Speed Anubis of the Questionable Morality!
Anubis will return next time in
“Balls of Fury”
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