A group of carnies is kidnapped and forced to fight for their lives for 12 hours on Halloween for the amusement of deranged people. 31 is a typical Rob Zombie movie with all of his favorite things: extreme violence, his wife Sheri Moon Zombie, gratuitous nudity, 70's era sleaze, and completely unlikeable characters all around. The violence doesn't really bother me as it's always a part of his movies, but it's everything else that makes the film a chore to watch. Sheri Moon Zombie does a better job here than in Lords of Salem because her performance doesn't completely depend on the success of the film. I liked her character for a little bit when she decided to emphatically fight back and kill in order to survive, but she could have been replaced with a mannequin in the end. It's a disappointing end for a promising character.
Zombie seems to love the 70's and especially the worst, most despicable white trash characters. I didn't like any of the characters at all. Even the carnies are just terrible despite the fact that the audience needs to be emotionally invested in them for the film to be effective. They are the worst bunch of sleazy, crude, misogynistic low-lifes. The most interesting villains are Doom Head, Father Napoleon, Sister Dragon, and Sister Serpent. Doom Head is a killer hired to murder those in the 31 game. He has the best dialogue in the entire film and his soliloquies, deranged expressions, and unpredictable demeanor make him even more memorable. Father Napoleon and the two Sisters intrigue me because we don't see any of what they do outside of this demented event. Plus I always like Malcolm MacDowell. The other "Head" characters are paper thin caricatures of villains, just as disposable and Zombie's worst attempt at shock value. Overall, 31 has a couple of interesting moments, but the concept and constant violence get old fast.
My rating: 1.5/5
* Perfect Host
John Taylor robs a bank and struggles to find a safe haven when his face is plastered all over the news. He finds a rich man named Warwick who lives alone, weasels his way into the house with lies and then stays with aggression. Warwick is so much more than John expected as the tables turn. John is drugged and tied up, forced to be part of Warwick's imaginary world of parties and murder.
Perfect Host is a completely unexpected movie. It has elements of horror but also of pitch black comedy and whimsy. David Hyde Pierce as Warwick is simply amazing. He lives in his own fantasy world where he is the life of the party with countless friends when in reality, he's just home alone. His favorite friends that include Roman, Chelsea, Rupert, and Monica are all different people in his mind that speak to him and give him advice. It's kind of like a very disturbing version of Heart and Souls. We get a glimpse of him in his life outside and his demeanor and even his way of speaking is completely different than when he's in his fantasy world. The entire dinner and after party scenes are filled with tension. Unpredictable Warwick could engage in polite conversation or drug him or bet him or anything in between.
John Taylor knows he's in way over his head when Warwick introduces his friends and shows John his murder dinner scrapbook. Based on this information, I had a firm idea of where the film would go, but time after time I was proven wrong. John is our entryway into Warwick's world and he fades into the background over time. He was the main character, but Warwick was infinitely more interesting. John robs a bank to help someone he loves, but this storyline has been seen time and time again. He couldn't even keep up the facade of knowing one of Warwick's friends up for very long because of his temper and his lack of commitment. No wonder his heist didn't work. His story line is the most boring, but Warwick definitely makes up for it. The ending leaves the story open for a sequel that I hope happens because it will be infinitely more sinister. I would only watch if David Hyde Pearce returned, obviously.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins