Welcome back to Stoner’s Corner, Spooky Halloween edition (LOL, it’s always spooky edition here). This is my little space to explore some of the strangest horror films the genre has to offer. Every month I’ll be highlighting a mind-altering film but also providing some insight to the world of cannabis through pairings & edible recipes to enhance your viewing experience, and keep you high on horror.
It’s been quite the year, to say the least. If 2020 were a horror movie, it would be a tonally inconsistent mess with too many sub-plots, off-the-wall editing, unlikeable characters, and a deranged sense of humour. It’s probably not going to do very well at the box office, either. Am I still talking about 2020 or am I just describing a Rob Zombie movie? Depends on who you ask and which movie!
Zombie’s films can be an unpredictable mixed bag of tricks and/or treats, but there are two things you know for certain going into his films: one, it’s going to be a wild ride and two, there’s a 50% chance the movie is set on or around Halloween in the 70s. House of 1,000 Corpses would be the obvious choice, but I opted to give one of his latest offerings a bit of redemption. A film given little chance of survival before being attacked mercilessly by bloodthirsty horror fans, just like its protagonists of today’s film in their deadly game of survival. Place your bets, grab your munchies (stay tuned til the end), and put on your best powdered wig: it’s time to play…I mean, watch 31!
Let the Games Begin: A Stoner’s Synopsis
One of my favorite sub-genres within horror are the “human hunting games:” whether it be through a unique sci-fi premise like Mayhem or by simpler means like the film discussed today. 31 follows a rag-tag group of carnival workers traveling the country together: Charly, Roscoe Pepper, Venus Virgo, Panda Thomas, and Levon Wally love spouting raunchy dialogue at each other and making cute home videos to play over the opening credits.
On Halloween 1976, the makeshift family is attacked by a group of people disguised as scarecrows (hmm, sounds familiar). They awake to 3 fancy pants aristocrats informing them that they are going to participate in a game called 31 where they must survive 12 hours of murderous clowns to earn their freedom. The group s numbered 1-5 and set loose into a hellish industrial maze while the aristocrats (led by a gleefully campy Malcom McDowell) set odds to bet on their survival. I love these movies to put yourself in the protagonist’s shoes and if you’re going to that with a Rob Zombie movie: it’s best to do so ridiculously stoned!
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” […] there are two things you know for certain going into [Rob Zombie’s] films: one, it’s going to be a wild ride and two, there’s a 50% chance the movie is set on or around Halloween in the 70s.”
When it comes to the film’s inception, Zombie had to take a different route than he’s used to. The director previously had the luxury of modest budgets for his film, ranging from $12-20 million. After the mixed success of his Halloween movies, Zombie scaled back for the smaller Lords of Salem, which also yielded a mix bag of results. So when it came to getting 31 made, Zombie didn’t have the aid of studio money and handed power over to the people, raising money through a filmbacked.com campaign.
Zombie teased the idea with a poster featuring a bloody and battered clown with the title 31. Devote Rob Zombie fans saw this as a potential follow-up to The Devil’s Rejects or even a third Halloween, excitedly backing the project. Zombie would dispel these theories, explaining it was an original idea. Fans were still excited, so much so they met the funding goal not once but TWICE in order to get the film made. However, with all the enthusiasm involved, 31 was received poorly by critics and did not make much money back.
Fun & Games
The reception for 31 is interesting, as by this point, people know whether or not they’re going to be into a Rob Zombie film. Either you’re a fan or your not, so critical response isn’t the best indicator of the film’s quality. You have to get real stoned and put yourself in the mind of a Zombie-head, indulge in your primal desires. 31 isn’t filled to the brim with themes or anything, but it does tap into your fears and survival instincts. Human survival games are fun to make you question if you have what it takes to survive, which Zombie’s usual stylistic choices and pension for pain lend well here. Even though the film at times feels a bit…too familiar.
You know when your favorite bands makes a song similar to one of their previous hit songs? Of course it isn’t going to be as good, but it’s comforting in a way. That’s 31 for Rob Zombie fans, giving them enough of what they love while just trying to make a film that will make them happy. Zombie didn’t make 31 to be some horror epic or gripping character drama (though he still tries): it’s just to have a bit of chaotic fun. And isn’t that what some of us could use right now?
I suppose I’ve been a bit down on this movie, but my stoner brain had me thinking of the big picture behind it. My revisit of the film wasn’t as rewarding as one would hope, but there is still quite a lot of fun to be had with this 31. We have Sherri Moon doing her thing as per usual, the entire cast of character have the coolest names (Malcom McDowell plays Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder), and we even get a twisted turn from beloved kids-cartoon voiceover actress E.G. Daily (Tommy Pickles from Rugrats) as one of our murderous clowns.
“Human survival games are fun to make you question if you have what it takes to survive, which Zombie’s usual stylistic choices and pension for pain lend well here.”
Most of the performances by “the heads” are quite fun, with actors chewing scenery in Rob Zombie’s signature theatrical presentation in between brutal fight scenes. In any Zombie film, I always get the sense that the actors are having a lot of fun. Actor Richard Brake seemed to be having the time of his life portraying Doom-Head, the most nefarious villain of the film. He kicks off the film with gleefully psychotic monologue that is a chef’s kiss. Any scene with Brake in it is worth your money as he brings this demented charisma to his performance, reveling in the pain and fear he’s generating. Also, might be the ganja talking, but shirtless Richard Brake with a face covered in paint and blood kinda does it for me.
Though the premise isn’t explored very deeply, the mechanics of the survival game are still very interesting. How long have the aristocrats been playing 31? How do they recruit the “heads” to participate as hunters? Are the aristocrats immortal time-travelers, what’s up with the wardrobe? There are many questions to rack your fried brain over while blazing through 31.
Another Rob Zombie calling card that makes 31 an extra fun stoned-watch is his gruesomely gorgeous set design. There’s always something weird to look at on screen that give his films a particular texture, especially the caged showroom and Sick-Head’s Hitler Shrine. And if you’re like me when I’m high, you can crank 31 up loud on your speakers with Zombie, John 5, Zeuss, and Bob Marlette joining forces on the sweet score. Doom-Head’s theme is downright diabolical. All the Rob Zombie-isms are here, frenetic editing and all, just not dialed in as tightly as some of his previous offerings. But enough to satisfy you if you’re a Rob Zombie fan, which is most likely the main reason you’re watching it to begin with!
Compared to last month’s Hausu, which you barely need to be high at all to trip out on, I recommend getting pretty high for 31 to look at it with less of a critical eye and have a bit more fun. Have you ever heard of oil-infused blunts? Well, if you’re a cannabis veteran, you’ll love these bad boys. They are standard rolled blunts or joints, dipped in concentrated THC oils, and rolled in keef (keef is weed ground down to a fine powder, very potent bringing out all the complexities of the cannabis). These things will turn you into Zombie-Head as you will be glued to the couch watching the carnage unfold! I smoked OG Kush, an Indica strain from Sublime (they call them Fuzzies) that definitely did the trick!
Not as hardcore of a smoker just yet? I have something fun for you! Whats the best part of a carnival? POPCORN, duh! The cool thing about edibles is you can make just about any snack that involves oil or butter. I found a yummy recipe for Cannabutter popcorn for you to try out! It’s as easy as making any other popcorn on the stovetop, as long as you have cannabutter made (butter/oil infused with cannabis). This recipe is particularly great, taking you through the steps to make your own cannabutter, with recommended dosages included. Now, cannabutter doesn’t exactly taste the best, so make sure to spruce up your popcorn with some flavor (varieties also provided in the recipe). I personally went with sweet & salty kettle-corn style and it turned out absolutely delicious. You can make enough for yourself or make a big batch for a Rob Zombie movie night with your homies!
31 was released in 2016, for the fans and has been since appreciated mainly by the fans. For many horror fans, Halloween is the ultimate comfort holiday and whats wrong with something a little familiar if it’s by someone you love who also loves you back. Rob Zombie’s 31 was financed by fans and Zombie delivers a simple, flawed, yet fun Halloween blood-fest one would come to expect. Not the best in his catalogue, but if you’re high enough: Zombie always hits the mark in one way or another. Hopefully I provided some stoner perspective and insights that will aid you in your horror movie-viewing escapades that results in a better October 31st than the characters of 31 had. Happy Halloween from your favorite high homie!
Join me next month for another edition of Stoner’s Corner. What are your thoughts on 31? What’s the appropriate level of high-ness to enjoy it? Tell us some of your experiences onLet us know over to Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook, and get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.