Almost as inevitable as the fact that a movie called 11-11-11 will be released on November 11th, 2011 is the fact that it will be a horror movie. 11-11-11 stars Timothy Gibbs ("Another World") as Joseph Crone, a bestselling novelist who has just lost his wife and child in a terrible fire. After the tragedy, he has a string of bad luck, including a wicked case of writer's block and a horrific car accident that almost kills him. Once he's out of the hospital, his poor fortune continues and he gets a call telling him that his father is dying. Joseph flies off to Spain to spend the man's last days with him and reunites with his brother, a minister named Samuel (Michael Landis from Burlesque and Final Destination 2). Samuel has converted the home into a chapel, which is awkward enough for the atheistic Joseph, but he also starts seeing strange visions of disappearing hooded figures and experiencing other weird happenings, all relating to the number 11. With the help of his friend Sadie (Wendy Glenn from "The L Word"), Joseph researches the numerology behind the number and discovers that 11 is more than just a numeral, it is part of a religious mythology that has the power to change the world.
Written and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, the creative mind who also brought the world Saw II, III and IV as well as the 2010 remake of Mother's Day and Repo! The Genetic Opera, 11-11-11 is a clever idea, if not completely original. Reminiscent of Joel Schumacher's The Number 23, 11-11-11 takes the viewer on Joseph's paranoid, insanity-driving trip into the grey area between science and religion. The film is more talk than action, and the dialogue isn't interesting enough to sustain a psychological thriller. There are occasional interesting spots, but the film is mostly fluff and padding around a plot structure that is far too simple to keep an audience's attention. Even the twist ending, which actually is pretty surprising, isn't written well enough to make the film worth sitting through. It's another case of telling the story instead of showing it, and that's a formula for a very bland film.
Photographically, 11-11-11 works well. Bousman and his go-to cinematographer Joseph White (who also shot Mother's Day and Repo! The Genetic Opera for him) use all of the standard spooky horror movie conventions like reflections, shadow lighting and camera motion to create an unsettling and eerie mood. Add in the purposely disjointed editing of Martin Hunter (Kalifornia, Event Horizon), and the film is a textbook example of modern horror filmmaking, much in the same vein as the Saw movies.
The best scene in the film has Joseph and Sadie in a hedge maze when an attacker with a gun leads Joseph on a chase. The camera follows Joseph, looking over his shoulder seeing basically what he's seeing. Once he catches the man, the camera swings around and jump cuts to different angles, driving home the feelings of confusion and fright that Joseph is feeling. The cinematography is effective, and is definitely the high point of the film, but it is still not enough to save it. All the great photography in the world can't make up for the lack of story.
Aside from the occasional cheap shock and scare, 11-11-11 is not scary. It's not even very suspenseful. The premise of the film is strong, but, in the end, it's just a long, drawn out bore. Even the demons and devils that Joseph sees are not scary. The reveal is a decent build-up, with him first seeing them out of the corner of his eye, then through a window and on film, and finally encountering them head-on. But, once the mystery of the creatures is shown, they're not frightening at all, and, in fact, they're the same stereotypical hooded religious villains that audiences have grown used to over the years, and it's hard to be afraid of something that's so familiar.
November 11, 2011