REVIEW: Shabby-chic Supernatural Thriller 11-11-11 So Lo-Fi It's Almost Endearing
There's something almost endearing about the creakily lo-fi quality of 11-11-11, the latest feature from Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Repo! The Genetic Opera and _Saw_s II-IV. The film has the feel of something conceived and whipped together in very little time, perhaps to make its own built-in deadline. It struggles with big ideas -- about the apocalypse, the changing nature of faith and, of course, how a certain date allows for the passage of possibly demonic beings between the worlds -- that it can't possibly accommodate on its small scale. It's a film with maybe a dozen speaking parts and supernatural beings that are clearly dudes in black robes wearing rubber masks that nevertheless tries to suggest seismic spiritual changes are afoot, thanks to the events it chronicles in a beach house in Spain (a country from which I can only assume the film received funding, as there's no other reason for it to be set there and the travel opens up problematic time zone questions).
11-11-11 is not at all frightening, a fault that lies as much with its limited effects as with its goofy concept: A successful, grieving author named Joseph Crone (Timothy Gibbs) starts experiencing ominous things linked to the number 11. He crashes his car, he has nightmares about the wife and son he lost in a fire, he learns that his father's in his last days and he has visions of demonic figures. Joseph may have lost his faith, but he sure likes talking about it -- "God is dead, or maybe he was never alive!" he declares. When he heads to Barcelona to reunite with his dying dad and wheelchair-bound brother, neither of whom he's seen in years, we see that religion plays a major role in his family, as both of the men are priests. They're pioneering a branch of Christianity that apparently espouses sin as natural and meets for services on Thursday mornings, and sibling Samuel (Michael Landes), who delivers the sermons, may be the target of those elevensie monsters (the movie explains that according to 11-11-11 mythology, they're called "midways").
The shabby-chic quality of the 11-11-11's practical effects gives it the feel of some forgotten '70s artifact that somehow surfaced in selected theaters, and the clunkiness of the film's dialogue adds to that oddball, out-of-time sensibility -- people repeatedly refer to Joseph as a "famous writer," as if that were a specific type of career choice, and when Joseph explains to his brother about the numerological pattern he's noticed, his brother says, "Maybe you're just cognizant of the number now and recognizing it." (He also claims his congregation's aim is "transcending the world's conception of religion" -- catchy!) Characters act in ways that's not at all internally consistent. Joseph's family died because an obsessive fan started a fire in his house, and yet he doesn't blink when Sadie, a woman from his therapy group (Wendy Glenn), finds his number, starts calling him all the time and actually follows him to Spain. Joseph becomes convinced his role in this event is to protect his brother, and he acts on this decision by immediately leaving his brother alone in the house to go for a walk in a hedge maze in town with his new crazy stalker girlfriend.
Bousman's not without talent. 11-11-11 wrings some creepiness from visions of Joseph's son and father, the actor playing the latter (Richard Crone) being scary enough without the addition of prosthetics. But 11-11-11 is a perfect example of why it's wise to shape your material to the resources you have -- in overreaching like this, the film just looks amateurish and schlocky. It may be more worthwhile as a study in the ever-changing world of niche marketing than as something you'd want to sit down and watch. Arriving in theaters through AMC independent, which offers space in multiplexes for indie titles, 11-11-11 seems to be counting on Bousman's fanbase and a Paranormal Activity-style "Demand it!" online campaign. It'll be interesting to see how well this works to get the word out without the weight of a major studio behind it -- the midnight screening I arrived at was reasonably populated, until a theater worker came in to announce that this wasn't a screening of Immortals, if that's what anyone was there for, and a dozen people grumblingly walked out.
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