I do recall in November of last year, when the 11th rolled around, how many people celebrated the unique date by wearing corduroy pants. After all, they argued, what date looks more like corduroy? A helpful reporter suggested 1970. Aside from that, I don't recall any hoopla surrounding the date of 11/11/11. I guess people were too busy fretting about the 2012 thing connected to the Mayan calendar.
But while I was blissfully smiling at the playful numerology of 11/11/11, I was missing the very limited theatrical release of Darren Lynn Bousman's PG-13-rated demon thriller 11-11-11, which went largely unnoticed in theaters, and which has just been released on DVD. I know it's bad form to quote other film critics in one's reviews, but the quotation on the back of he DVD box, from Samuel Zimmerman of Fangoria magazine, is a real pip. He says that it's “the type of flawed gem that horror fans are meant to cherish.” Is it me, or is that seeming statement of praise actually loaded with qualifiers?
I'm not sure if I'd call 11-11-11 (which tacks on the extraneous subtitle of The Prophecy for the DVD release)a “gem,” although for a little-seen, PG-13-rated horror thriller that was only made to bank in on a very specific date, it's certainly not as cheap as it could have been. Bousman, who previously directed Saw II through Saw IV and the cult favorite Repo! The Genetic Opera,at least knows how to construct a scene and how to operate in a budget. 11-11-11 only has a few speaking actors, a few locations, and only shows the monsters in creepy flashes, ensuring for a low budget, but a decent creep factor. This is Bouseman's 7th feature film, and he has since completed an 8th and 9th, and is currently finishing up a 10th. I sense that Bouseman, if he continues on his factory-like output of serviceable-but-not-great B-grade genre pictures, will become an exploitation legend after only another decade, no matter how crappy the films are.
11-11-11 itself is, despite its low-budget slickness, kind of dumb. Its ideas aren't nearly as big as it thinks, and it is clearly spending much of its own brief 82-minute running time padding itself with extended angsty shots of the protagonist darkly contemplating the horrors around him. It also features a rather arbitrary “twist” ending, which, rather unfairly, couldn't be predicted. I'm not sure which is worse in a twist ending. One that you can see from a mile away, or the ones that aren't even hinted at.
Timothy Gibbs plays Joseph Crone, a world famous horror author living in London who recently lost his wife and son to a fire set by an obsessive fan. As a result of the tragedy, compounded by an upbringing of strict Catholic badgering, he has lost his faith. He must return to Spain to look after his ailing father, and have meaningful conversations with his pastor brother Samuel (Michael Landes from Burlesque). To the film's credit, it allows the conversations between the faithful brother and the atheist brother to unwind naturally; their discussions on faith don't feel like heated debates, but actual conversations.
Joseph soon begins noticing that all the horrible events in his life took place at 11:11pm (death certificates, glimpsed watches, and the like all play heavily). It doesn't take him long to become a mad numerologist, and to find an entire cult surrounding the number 11. Say what you will, but I've always loved scenes in movies wherein characters have to do research through giant old musty books in cramped bookstores and libraries. He soon runs aground on the cult of the Eleveners, which is an actual group of numerologists who believe in the recurring prophetic power of the number 11 (unlike the cult of the number 23, like in The Number 23). I wish 11-11-11 had spent more time on the fringe with the Eleveners, rather than with Joseph's baffled revelations. As the 11th of November 2011 approaches, and his visions of demonic shadows in the old family home increases, Joseph finds himself starting sense that something horrible will happen to his brother. Indeed, he begins to have a divine view of his saintly brother, and finds himself recovering small bits of his faith.
That's an interesting enough story for a horror cheapie, but 11-11-11 was undone by its lack of incident, and by its dumb twist ending (which I will have the decency not to reveal). As a result, it feels like any of the many forgettable demonic thrillers that pop up rather frequently in theaters. Here's what I wish Bousman had done: given us a pseudo-documentary look at the Elevener cult, and structured his story around the arcane details of their prophecies. Then it would have been fun.
The DVD has a brief making-of featurette, and a few deleted scenes that neither add nor subtract from the film. As far as DVD extras go, they're pretty standard.