31 is generally regarded as one of the lesser movies of musician-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie, partially down to its watered-down content that detracted from the sadistic brutality of the original vision and instead turned it into borderline camp. However, such issues might be fixed by an unrated cut of the film that apparently still exists.
The story sees a group of carnies kidnapped by a band of maniacs and placed inside a makeshift labyrinth, where they’re hunted by a quintet of horrific clowns to be tortured and killed, while a trio of elderly sociopaths dressed as pastiches of aristocrats place bets on their survival. Reactions from both audiences and critics was mixed, and it remains one of Zombie’s least popular movies.
Horror pics often have issues with the MPAA, as the necessary blood and gore often has to be toned down for a film to avoid an NC-17 rating. Movies rated as such are often not screened by local theaters but only larger chains, as Zombie noted during the process of attempting to get the film rated R.
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The first two attempts that received the dreaded rating were described as having “sadistic graphic violence, bizarre sexuality/nudity, pervasive disturbing images and some strong language,” while the R-rated cut we all saw merely had “strong bloody horror violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use,” with the lack of intensification adjectives of the latter indicating how much tamer it is in comparison. With the excised material restored by an unrated cut, audiences should be able to take it more seriously.
As ScreenRant explains:
Despite how 31’s uncut version isn’t a totally different movie, the ability to see Zombie’s original vision— uncompromised—would likely result in a better version of the movie. Zombie’s specialty is intense gore and disturbing visuals, so even if the edits are just gratuitous money shots, they’ll likely help make characters like Doom-Head even more intimidating. Zombie has released director’s cuts of his other movies, but he’s gone silent on the topic of the uncut version of 31. Whether that means he’s abandoned the release or is just figuring out a way to give it the attention that it deserves remains to be seen.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that more sex and violence will actually make 31 a better movie. Specifically, it’s questionable whether jacked-up inappropriate content will make up for the movie’s other primary point of contention that it feels far too formulaic of Zombie other work, particularly as it came in the wake of his most distinct effort The Lords of Salem. Either way, though, at least give people the opportunity to decide for themselves.