11-11-11 is a horror movie about a writer plagued by ominous visions, supernatural encounters, and repeated exposure to the number eleven. This would include the date the story leads up to, and how fortuitous that the film was actually given a November 11, 2011 release date. Remember the 2006 remake of The Omen and its June 6 release date, which we all know was a marketing ploy to have the month, date, and year exactly match the demonic number 666? And then there was The Number 23, which opened to the public on February 23, 2007 – and incidentally, I was twenty-three years old at that time. At least they both had clever ad campaigns, and in my opinion, they were fairly decent films. The same cannot be said for 11-11-11. To be perfectly honest, all the elevens in the world would not have made this film work.
The writer, named Joseph Crone (Timothy Gibbs), is a skeptic who lost his faith after his wife and child tragically died in a house fire. It was started, we eventually learn, by a fanatic who was inspired by one of his books. As the film progresses, his brushes with strange phenomena will naturally become more frequent, more dangerous, and more frightening. This would be fine, except that he stubbornly remains a skeptic until the last possible moment, which is odd because the circumstances make absolutely no sense. But I won’t get into that just yet. Exactly how many run-ins with demons and double digits are necessary for you to finally consider the possibility that there truly is something bigger than yourself? At a certain point, I wanted to crawl up into the screen, smack this guy across the head, and scream, “Believe, already!”
The plot, as it were, involves Joseph travelling to Barcelona and reuniting with his estranged father (Denis Rafter), who’s dying, and his handicapped brother, Samuel (Michael Landes), a minister for a dwindling congregation. As Joseph muddles his way through a series of strange events, he begins to suspect that everything is somehow connected to the number eleven. He’s repeatedly told that someone has to be saved, and so he naturally deduces that his purpose in life is to protect his brother, who may be a really special person. Warnings persist about ghostly beings caught in the purgatory between life and death, that they seek a doorway into our world, and that it will happen on November 11. At least, I think that’s what was going on. It seems that the more explaining this movie does, the less sense it makes.
Many horror movies have been made about the battle between faith and non-belief, but lack of originality is not what makes 11-11-11 so unbearable. It’s the way in which these opposites are explored. Just about every conversation between the brothers is constructed like a joke. Samuel, pious and soft-spoken, provides the setups. Joseph, the angry atheist, delivers the punch lines. Writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman assembles passages of dialogue as if there’s no such thing as middle ground; he has two men shouting at the rain, both sounding ridiculous. Listening to these men argue about God is a little like watching a political debate between candidates who have already lost the race. They continue to campaign, even though voters have long since stopped caring about what they stand for or even who they are.
The film also features a young woman named Sadie (Wendy Glenn), who met Joseph at a support group for people who have lost family members. Her appearance seems to have stemmed from the desire to have a female character present in a horror movie. This is strange because Bousman didn’t have the decency to use her in typical ways, such as having her get topless, making her scream helplessly, and ultimately having her die a horrible, bloody death. I don’t think I’ve seen another film this year in which a character so thoroughly lacked a purpose. She’s completely useless. Even her encouraging words for Joseph have no effect, mostly because we expected her to say them as early as her very first scene.
All leads to a surprise ending, except it isn’t a surprise so much as it is a cheat. At that point, I no longer had any idea what was going on. When I was finally hit with the plot twist, I felt angry, for its inclusion seemed intentionally designed to confuse me even further. Nothing that happens during the final ten minutes makes sense. Is Bousman trying to make a point about religion? If so, what is it? The more I try and work through his logic, the more I’m torn between hysterical laughter and blinding rage. It can’t possibly be a good sign when the only thing a movie called 11-11-11 has going for it is a series of numbers tied to a release date. They couldn’t even get that right; the film’s limited release pretty much prevented the start of an immersive ad campaign. How many people actually know that this movie exists?