It’s time to blow the roof off of Rob Zombie’s most closely guarded secret: The dude is kind of into gross clowns. It may not have seemed like it, what with his first two films having a clown-faced wacko playing a key role, but trust us, it’s 100 percent the case. And now, after brief detours into franchise filmmaking and arty horror (well, Zombie’s version of it, anyway), the director is ready to do a deep dive into all his fascinations, including creepy clowns, circus grotesqueries, and Malcolm McDowell, all while maintaining his commitment to showcasing the white-trash aesthetic that’s become his calling card.
31 tells the story of a ramshackle group of carnival workers who get kidnapped and held hostage the night before Halloween. As the trailer indicates, the stakes are clearly established: For 12 hours, they have to try and survive an onslaught of violence and terror, as embodied in a sick game called 31. It looks promising, and in this case, the crowd-sourced fundraising behind the endeavor should assure you that it’s a true passion project. Zombie has continued to grow as a filmmaker, and even when the overall project misses its mark, there’s usually interesting stuff to be found amid the weirdness. Of course, that’s ignoring the dreadful review our own A.A. Dowd gave the film at Sundance, saying, “the sheer incoherence of Zombie’s action scenes, coupled with the shrill overacting of just about everyone on screen, puts this at the rock bottom of the director’s quasi-transgressive oeuvre.” If the writer-director has indeed somehow forgotten his formal chops, this could be a rough one. 31 is due in theaters later this year.