I guess one of the minor issues I had with Writer / Director Darren Lynn Bousman and his biblical apocalyptic film ‘11-11-11’, released on November 11th, in the year of 2011, is that about fifteen minutes in I figured out its ‘thing’. Even though I’m not smart or clever and a little dull witted, I guess I’ve watched enough movies that these things are no longer all that difficult to figure out. But I say it’s only a minor thing because what movie actually has the ability to shock or surprise nowadays? Not many. It’s the journey that matters, so if ‘11-11-11’, released on November 11th in the year of 2011 can thrill us while it gets to where we already know where it’s going, then it is all good. So much for that.
World renowned pulp fiction writer Joseph Crone
(Timothy Gibbs) is a depressed pile of emotional
goo. A year ago, on November 11th no less,
his wife and son died in a tragic fire.
Since then he’s been living in a rundown apartment
just waiting to die. He still writes every
day, as Grant his smarmy agent has gleefully
observed, but these writings are personal,
basically a manifesto attacking the existence of
God, and if he does exist then obviously he
doesn’t care considering how he allows these
terrible things to happen.
So Joseph reluctantly jets off to Spain to see his father off into the next world, and reconnect with his estranged, wheelchair bound preacher brother who worships the imaginary man in the clouds. It’s not long before the weird stuff starts happening. Joseph’s dad (Denis Rafter) frequently pops out of his death bed to give Joseph cryptic messages about ‘being watched’ and ‘helping his brother’. Why dad likes to do this while Joseph’s back is turned amidst orchestra hits is beyond me, but you know how dads can be. Then there are the weird hooded monster type apparitions that show up. First on the security cameras that Samuel has placed outside the house, then in the house itself showing up, for no other reason it seems, than to scare the bejeebus out Joseph.
So what’s the deal? Joseph thinks it has something to do with the date 11-11-11, and the group known as the ‘Eleveners’. The story is, I guess, is that a gateway of one world will be opening to another world allowing demons into our world on this day. And it looks like these demons want to take out Samuel, a man of God, and his words of salvation to save mankind.
Now it’s become clear to Joseph, his purpose on this planet is to protect his brother at all costs. The man who doesn’t believe has seen the truth and on November 11th, in the year of 2011, at time of 11:11, something bad is going to happen to his baby brother unless he can stop it because the fate of mankind rests on his ability to do this. Jump scares will ensue. En masse.
The good thing about Mr. Bousman’s story, despite the fact that we already knew where it was going, is that when it gets there and this predetermined thing happens, we thought it was actually kind of cool. It is said that if you are going to write a story, before you write a single word, make sure you know how this story of yours is going to end. Darren Lynn Bousman got that part, he figured it out, it’s going to end this way and it’s going to be awesome. The hurdle that this director wasn’t able to jump over was actually getting to that point.
As a horror movie, with all of the telegraphed jump scares and the shadowy figures, and assholes walking up behind you for no particular reason, ‘11-11-11’ wasn’t very effective. There wasn’t much by way of dread or suspense in the horror elements embedded in this film despite the earnest efforts to make this happen. This problem becomes even more pronounced as the movie goes on and lays its cards on the table. It doesn’t fare much better as a thriller, probably due to a script that could’ve used a bit of an overhaul. Again, you have a fairly firm grip on what’s happening and why it’s happening, but the plot is fractured, the characters and their approaches to certain things are confusing, as the movie was careening towards the Big Reveal to tie all together and hopefully save itself. I could use the example of another biblical horror film in ‘Angel Heart’ which was a much bigger mess than this movie, but had a Big Reveal which went a long way to making it a better movie, if not ever a good movie. The Big Reveal in this movie, while kind of cool all things considered, does have the undesirable side effect of forcing you go back and ask a bunch of questions about what we have just seen. Man… unless your movie has a narrative that’s drum tight, you do not want that, and that’s a scrutiny that this relatively brief movie could not survive. Far more time was spent on worthless jump scares than fleshing out a story that admittedly had some promise.
The atmosphere was good, the performances were solid, and the concept was a viable one, but ‘11-11-11’ ended up being a good concept in search of a solid story to support it.