One and one (and one and one and one and one) never quite add up to two in Darren Lynn Bousman’s “11-11-11,” a rather anemic entry in the biblical-prophecy horror subgenre. A creative payoff arrives too late to rescue either the pic or the viewer from a particular form of perdition, as Bousman tries to straddle the gaping aesthetic chasm between his “Saw” efforts and his purposely flamboyant and outrageous “Repo! The Genetic Opera.” Despite the obvious novelty of its timing, the film’s low-tech effects and lack of tension ensure its title will also be its sell-by date.
Given the competition among horror filmmakers to push the special-effects envelope and Bousman’s obvious fluency with the conventions of torture porn, there’s a curiously lethargic strategy at work in “11-11-11.” The obscured visuals rapidly diminish interest by keeping the audience unsure about what exactly is going on during moments of crisis, and the stagy effects (which include Murnau-era visages floating in space, vaporous phantasms appearing on surveillance cameras and shrouded ghouls materializing abruptly) bring the overall effect very close to camp, without the fun.
Joseph Crone (Timothy Gibbs) is a hack author who disparages his own work as he tries to cope with the untimely loss of his wife and child. At a 12-step mourners’ meeting, he meets Sadie (Wendy Glenn), who witnesses the first of many calamitous 11-11-related events that will plague Joseph throughout the movie: Right after he says goodbye to Sadie, his car promptly collides with another and bursts into flames. Joseph’s OK, although the vehicular stunt strains credulity and physics (the whole thing seems to happen in about 11 seconds).
Although Joseph and Sadie’s relationship, unlike that car, seems to be gaining traction, the author is suddenly called away to Barcelona, where his father (Denis Rafter) is dying. Once there, Joseph begins to realize the increased frequency with which the magic numbers are corresponding to the tragic events in his life (his son, for instance, died at 11:11 a.m.), as well as to the mysterious goings-on at the cultish church led by his brother, Samuel (Michael Landes). Adding to the mystery are Samuel’s weird housekeeper (Salome Jimenez), a murderous parishioner, the free-roaming vapors, cats and dogs sleeping together, and an imminent sense of the apocalypse.
Despite the rather static progression of “11-11-11,” in which even the most predictable jump-scare tactics fall flat, the story’s denouement reps a bit of a theological shocker; it might be well worth reconstituting into another movie, preferably one in which the buildup contains at least some rudimentary suspense. Not helping matters are the less-than-convincing performances by Gibbs and Landes, who admittedly don’t have a lot of scintillating dialogue to work with. Glenn, by contrast, brings real presence to the proceedings, but she only bookends the movie, disappearing before the Barcelona sequence and returning for the payoff.
Tech credits are ho-hum, and some of the lensing is simply befuddling.