My cousin and I saw a sneak preview of the new Rob Zombie movie 31 a little over a month ago. Previous to this I'd seen three of Zombie's other movies (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects and The Haunted World of El Superbeasto); of those, the only one I'd consider a genuinely good movie is The Devils Rejects, although House has its moments and El Superbeasto has some nice Ren and Stimpy-style animation. Sadly, 31 continues this trend. It's a mix of the setup and gritty, dirty atmosphere of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with another retelling of The Most Dangerous Game, as a group of traveling carnival workers are abducted by a shadowy cabal of aristocrats dressed in 1700s royal garb who bet on their survival as they are stalked through an abandoned factory by a melange of colorful freaks over the course of 12 hours. Zombie does some interesting things with the camera to show us the layout of the environments and their are some stylish moments, but much of the movie turns into a bunch of poorly-established characters swinging improvised weapons at each other while screaming profanities under flickering lighting. The movie does get a significant boost in its second half courtesy of an unhinged, screen-chewing performance by Richard Brake as the demented Doom-Head, but the movie proceeds to squander its newfound energy and end with a bit of a whimper.
Despite all of that, my cousin and I still had a pretty good time - the movie has some cheap thrills, a few very funny moments, some quotable lines (mostly from the aforementioned Doom-Head) and one very memorable performance. Also, the limited time frame and stakes (who will survive the 12 hours?) gave the movie a sense of momentum and purpose even during its sometimes clumsy and messy storytelling. My cousin put it best when talking to his wife: "It wasn't a good movie, but it was an entertaining movie".