There's something almost quaint about the new occult thriller from Darren Lynn Bousman, and not just because it's a low-key departure for the guy who directed three Saw sequels, a Mother's Day remake, and one of the craziest cult musicals since Rocky Horror. At times the somewhat dry, somewhat comfortably familiar horror tale known as 11-11-11: The Prophecy feels like a late-era Hammer feature (admittedly not one of the best ones) and, more often, it starts to feel a lot like a mid-'80s religious thriller. The movie 11-11-11 reminds me of most is Carl Schultz's The Seventh Sign. Yep, that goofy yet well-remembered piece of church-related horror starring Demi Moore that hit screens in 1988, promptly vanished, and lives on in the hearts of serious horror geeks.
I think it's safe to say that writer/director Bousman has seen The Seventh Sign once or twice, in addition to countless other horror movies about prophecies, bad religion, and allegedly impending apocalypses. Indeed there's not much in 11-11-11 that a staunch horror fan hasn't seen before, but there's something to be said for a gore-slinging filmmaker who tries to tone it down and take a completely different approach to horror. (The director of the original Saw, James Wan, also tried to go old-school with his second effort. The result was Dead Silence, which I and only a few others seem to like at all.) But while one can applaud the director's intention, especially when a good portion of his final product is pretty good, there's still a good handful of cinematic speed bumps to be found in the familiar-yet-weird 11-11-11.
Our protagonist is an unhappy man named Joseph Crone. Despite his career as a world-famous horror author, Joseph is at the end of his rope: his wife and son have recently died, he barely survived a horrible car accident, and now his old ailing dad and handicapped brother have called for his help. Against his better judgment, Joseph heads down to Barcelona to visit his wheelchair-bound religious zealot of a little brother. Oh, and in addition to all that misery, Joseph starts noticing the number 11/11/11 everywhere. Clocks, calendars, calculators, you name it. Combine the freaky numbers with the unsettling religious weirdness going on at Sam Crone's deserted "church," and you're halfway to figuring out where this movie is going. And trust me, you'll know.
But despite a good lead performance from Timothy Gibbs, a few cool ideas, and a third act that (finally) delivers on some promises, 11-11-11 is also packed with a lot of airy chit-chat that either repeats established ideas or simply goes nowhere. At first Joseph's numerical maladies are novel and compelling, but after numerous scenes of him ranting and raving, any final revelation would be more welcome than shocking. And truth be told, you'll probably figure out the ending long before it arrives, but there's still a decent amount of fun to be had watching it happen. One wishes that 11-11-11 added just a few new wrinkles to an oft-told tale of religious malfeasance, or at least that the painfully sagging Act II had been tweaked a little bit, but between the basic set-up and the weirdly satisfying finale, fans of the "end of days" scary tales have certainly seen worse.