Written and Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Timothy Gibbs, Michael Landes and Brendan Price
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďWhat does it say about me that I find it much easier to believe in the Devil than I do in God? "
Darren Lynn Bousman has had a rough time with movies centered around certain dates. At least two Motherís Days have passed since he announced his intentions to remake the Troma slasher (which is finally due to be released in a week), and then thereís 11-11-11, a film that was produced to cash in on a (literally) once-in-a-lifetime date. Obviously, that date has come and gone, leaving whatever hysteria surrounded that date firmly in the rearview mirror (for myself, it was just another Veteranís Day). This is just as well since 11-11-11 doesn't get very worked up itself, either; in fact, itís one of the quietest, low scale apocalyptic horrors Iíve seen in quite a while.
The titular sequence of numbers haunts author Joseph Crone (Timothy Gibbs), who lost his wife and child to a fire. His loss has rendered him into a faithless shell of a man, much to the dismay of his brother, Samuel (Michael Landes). When Samuel summons Joseph to Spain to their fatherís death bed, instances of the number grow in frequency and point to the unfolding of some sinister events that will come to a head on (you guessed it) November 11th.
11-11-11 is a bit of a departure for Bousman since itís far removed from the hyperactive, in-your-face Saw sequels and Repo; instead, itís a nice little slow burn that creeps up to its big reveal. Bousman peppers in subtle, unsettling imagery that darts around in the background of the frame to create a slowly enveloping sense of doom. Thereís an undeniable sense that something bad is going to happen, and just enough weird stuff happens to John as he attempts to unravel this numerical phenomena. As it turns out, he isnít alone since an entire cult--who call themselves Eleveners--are devoted to this recurring series of numbers that serve as harbingers of some otherworldly force.
John is forced to untangle a whole bunch of jargon and mumbo jumbo, and we as an audience have to watch him wade through books and web pages to have this info relayed to us. In this sense, itís somewhat reminiscent of Carpenterís Prince of Darkness, a film thatís similarly tangled up in a whole bunch of nonsense and mythology. Unlike Prince of Darkness, 11-11-11 doesnít move quite as gracefully, and it doesnít help that thereís no one on the level of Donald Pleasence to sell it all (I have a feeling I would be goddamn terrified of the number eleven if Pleasence were in this movie). Because of this, Bousmanís film is just a little soggy and weighed down by the typical crisis-of-faith clichťs and an inert, hamstrung story that doesnít take off until the end. Up until that point, the amount of stuff that gets piled on becomes almost comical--not only has Joseph lost his wife and kid, but he gets in a car accident, his dadís dying, his mother died when he was young, and his brotherÖwell, his brother is being portrayed by an overly earnest Michael Landes who seems to be reading all of his lines straight from the script. His character is paralyzed, but Iím not so sure they didnít just sit Landes down because itíd be too difficult for him to walk and recite dialogue at the same time.
Besides being an obvious and cloying cipher for the side of religion, Landesís character eventually serves a function once the last ten (or eleven!) minutes kick in and slightly redeem 11-11-11. Bousman goes full-on haunted house at this point; if the rest of the film represents the gathering of the ghosts and demons, then the end is their siege, and the climactic sequence is a taut, tense little head-turner. Most importantly, Bousman doesnít go too big here--heís working on a shoestring budget, so he doesnít push it beyond his means to open up to any grand scope, preferring instead to stay restrained and focused with a coda thatís genuinely eerie. The director does dip into his bag of familiar Saw tricks to contort the story, but he resists the urge to turn this film into another herky-jerky affair aesthetically, as he trades in his usual frenetic cutting for more fluid and roving camerawork to draw the film out.
11-11-11 ultimately works despite its awkward, gabby plotting, and it moves with a purpose and never outruns its ominous vibe. Filled with understated imagery and an intriguing fringe mythology, itís a decent, insidious take on apocalyptic terror. Lamberto Bavaís The Ogre wasnít quite apocalyptic, but Bousmanís film has the same sort of intimate on-the-threshold-of-hell feeling. Neither of those films are fully accomplished, but 11-11-11 presents some devilish ideas about religious origins that get some nice lip service towards the end. Unfortunately, its title seemingly tags it with a bit of shelf life, and The Asylum even ended up beating Bousman to the wide-release punch with their riff, but 11-11-11 is still worth a look, so check out Big Air/Rocket Releasingís disc that bowed last week. The only special features include some deleted scenes and a making-of-featurette, but the presentation is up to par since the transfer is crisp and the 5.1 soundtrack quite dynamic (the climax is especially aided by some nice use of directional footsteps). For a guy whose career has been gnarled up in the barbed wire of the poster child for ďtorture porn,Ē Bousman shows some good chops here that take him outside of his comfort zone; 11-11-11 thrives more on mood and impending doom more so than gore. Heís not entirely successful, but itís a tidy excursion into different territory for him. Rent it!
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