Pseudo-religious twaddle and apocalyptic bombast are both the baloney and the cheese in the latest mediocrity sandwich from director Darren Lynn Bousman, 11-11-11. The ads trumpet Bousman as the director of Saw 2, 3, and 4, though we’re not sure why anyone would admit directing Saw 4. You can be sure that 11-11-11 will disappear from theaters faster than it takes to change the date to 11-12, and since Bousman also wrote this yawner disguised as a horror film, he has only himself to blame.
Then again, what else can you expect from a movie based on a date?
Throughout the movie’s (thankfully) scant 80-minute running time, I was reminded of that horribly laughable Nic Cage Wicker Man remake and that just plain horrible Winona Ryder snoozer Lost Souls. 11-11-11 is neither better nor worse than those two, just equally bad.
To those of you who might have seen the screener floating around, the final version differs somewhat (and apparently this movie’s already released on DVD in The Netherlands), but no matter which version you chose…they’re all terrible, and it’s really not worth wasting your time comparing just which version sucks harder. Personally, the best version is called J. Edgar with Leonardo DiCaprio.
11-11-11 opens with a woman getting up. There’s smoke in her bedroom. It turns out that it’s not just her house that’s on fire, but also her son. Yikes. But before the little tyke advances from lightly toasted to charbroiled, an alarm rings and we realize, it’s ONLY A DREAM.
An alarm clock wakes a man we will know as Joseph Crone (Timothy Gibbs). Crone is a bestselling author of dime-store thrillers. He writes because it’s a way to keep the demons temporarily at bay. All his characters have lost their faith in a supreme being or any kind of religion because Joseph has.
FYI- the alarm rang at exactly 11:11 PM, so apparently that means something, lest you ask yourself why the hell someone would set their alarm for 11:11 at night. It’s the type of thing that only happens in a bad horror film because sinister presences like to mess with people’s alarm clocks.
You see Joseph’s wife Sarah and child David were burned up recently and what remains of them can fit in a coffee can. Maybe a coffee cup will suffice. Sarah and David’s roasting couldn’t have happened that long ago because Joseph is still relatively clean-shaven and hasn’t started rocking the Bereavement Depression Stubble yet.
Joseph is in a support group and is writing a diary as a form of therapy. You’d think a support group for people whose wife and child were burned in a fire would be pretty small, but it’s a group for those dealing with the loss of a loved one, regardless of manner of death. Though we’d admit that burning in a fire gets style points that most mundane deaths don’t.
In the group, members share their stories. Joseph listens attentively as a woman named Sadie (Wendy Glenn) shares her wacky anecdote about her dead husband. Joseph is paying attention because Sadie is cute. And single (see: previous sentence mentioning dead husband).
Sadie recognizes Joe as a famous writer and asks if Joe will share his story of his family. Joe can’t share because he can’t yet find the words (maybe… “My wife and son were burned”). Sadie acknowledges the irony of a writer not being able to find the words. Joe acknowledges her cleavage as he looks down her shirt.
Joe and Sadie finish their Meet Cute by saying they’ll see each other at the next meeting.
This may happen sooner than later because as soon as Joe pulls out of his parking space there’s an accident. Joe’s car is totaled and he’s whisked off to the hospital. The clock on the car shows that the accident happened at exactly 11:11 in the AM. Weird how that worked out.
Don’t worry, Joe’s okay, with nary a scratch on him. The other driver is dead, but that’s okay too. Later we will wish that Joe died in this accident because it would have ended the movie 11 minutes into it.
Sadie visits Joe in the hospital.
We think it’s funny that someone died right outside a building that holds a support group for people who are dealing with people who have died.
Joe is pissed that he’s still alive because he’s pretty much had a death wish ever since David and Sarah got crisped. He prays to a god he doesn’t believe in to take his life. He sees images of his dead wife and kid in dreams and even while awake. Sadie thinks this behavior is a little too emo for someone his age.
Sadie gives Joe a ride him because apparently Joe can’t pull out of a parking lot without killing someone.
Oh yeah, the hospital room Joe was staying at was Room 111. Eerie.
And the date at which all this occurred: 11-08-11. Probably not important.
When Joe gets home, he gets even more good news. It turns out his religious nut father is dying. Joe has to fly to Spain where he grew up to be with his father before he dies, hopefully not from a fire because that would be ironic.
Joe and his father don’t get along. But Dad is dying so it won’t be a long visit.
Joe goes to Spain from his place in the East Coast. The flight is exactly 11 minutes long. His father is still loopy and being taken care of by a fellow nutbar named Ana (Montserrat Alcoverre). Ana knows Joe is famous and proclaims that she doesn’t read his books. She only believes in one book, and then proceeds to whip out a bible. She believes in Jesus and has a bust of his head affixed to her vibrator so it looks like a Pez dispenser. Ana, when she gets into a religious fervor, sometimes confuses her Jesus vibrator with her actual Pez dispenser, which helps no one because getting Pez candy is pretty difficult in Spain.
Joe wishes he could slam a door in Ana’s face like he does when the Bible-thumpers try to soul-solicit in his neighborhood.
Joe talks to his dad, and by talk, we mean that Joe’s Dad spits crazy, just like when he was a child. He warns Joe that “They are watching You.” Whatever that means. You wonder why they don’t get along better.
Joe also has a wheelchair-bound brother Samuel (Michael Landes). Samuel is the Pastor of the church he and their father run together. They like each other enough, but their religious differences seem to have gotten in the way of developing any meaningful relationship as siblings. Also, when they were both 11, they elevened eleven times at eleven o’clock in the eleven on 11th street while watching the original idiotic Ocean’s 11 where Sammy Davis Jr. sings for no reason.
Joe confesses that he’s been seeing David and Sarah at random times. He also tells Sam that he’s been seeing the number 11 all over the place and wonders if that means something. Joe does the math and realizes that the names Joseph Crone and Samuel Crone both have 11 letters in it. Sam counters that something that transparent could only happen in a bad horror movie.
Sam notes that his brother the cynic finally believes something that defies logical explanation. Joe notes how Sam would look if he were to shove that fucking wheelchair down the stairs with him still in it and if his God would save him then.
Sam shows Joe something interesting. Recently the Church has been vandalized by non-believers, so Sam has installed security cameras around the perimeter, and some where the altar boys change and take baths.
Sam plays security footage of images occurring the previous night at — wait for it — 11:11. Joe is frightened because they look like misshapen beings of some sort. Could this be the “They” that crazy dad was foaming at the mouth about?
Maybe, maybe not. But Joe arrived in Spain on November 9th, 2011, so you can bet that the next 48 hours will be filled with questions that need answering like-
-What is the significance of the number 11? And why he seeing it all over the place and what could it possibly herald? And why was this so much better handled in that mediocre Jim Carrey movie The Number 23?
-Who are those mysterious hooded figures in the security footage, and why are their images getting clearer the closer it gets to November 11th? Maybe it signifies something because it’s the name of the movie.
What works with 11-11-11-
1) At least the title’s easy to spell
2) Despite the inanity of everything around him, Timothy Gibbs (looking like the middle-aged spawn of George Clooney and Daniel Craig) gives a convincing enough lead performance as Joseph. You get that he gets the seriousness of the situation, even if no one in the audience does or even cares to. May be the only one in this production that could escape relatively unscathed.
What doesn’t work-
1) How boring is 11 x 3? You actually look at your watch, not merely praying for the movie to end, but to clock when you’re going to get an actual scare, even a cheap one. It happens about an hour into the muck with a poorly executed jump-scare.
2) A wince-worthy nod to The Shining that only succeeds in making you want to watch The Shining instead of this. I’m not being fair. You’d pretty much want to watch anything else instead of this.
3) Just when you thought the movie couldn’t get any worse, a twist that brought about more laughs from the audience than anything resembling fear or surprise. At least it was some kind of reaction other than lethargy. Simply by being dreadful, 11-11-11 has actually made that other 11-11-11 opener Jack and Jill (poor Katie Holmes) look good by comparison.
Overall. On a Stupidity scale from 1 to 10, 11-11-11 manages to crank it up to a 12. It’s not the end of the world if you’re unlucky enough to see it, you’ll just wish it was.