Here’s a lesson for you. Not all elevens are the same. Case in point, the apocalyptic horror film 11/11/11, picking this eleven-friendly doomsday. That’s because there are two movies released in 2011 that have this exact same concept. The other movie was written and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, the man behind three Saw films and Repo: The Genetic Opera. That one, actually released on 11/11/2011, has a bit more publicity to its numerological case. The only thing separating the two movies is their choice of numerical separation. You see there’s the direct-to-DVD 11/11/11 and the theatrically released, Bousman-directed 11-11-11. It’s dashes or slashes, folks. I’d have to imagine that the dashes movie is better than this, the slashes movie, just on Bousman. But then again, expecting a better movie from the guy behind the middle section of the Saw franchise might be asking for too much. Still, I’d have to assume that a blind monkey could make a movie better than 11/11/11, a horror movie that could only scare you with how bad it is.
The basic plot is that a family moves into a new home. Jack Vales (Jon Briddell) is teaching a college course, taking over for a professor who killed himself. The professor’s widow just happens to live next door, and she’s batty. Melissa (Erin Coker) has found out that she’s pregnant again. The town’s doctors are keeping her sedated an awful lot. Then there’s 10-year-old Nathan “Nat” (Hayden Byerly) who is turning eleven on November 11, 2011, and it seems like everybody wants to celebrate. The neighbor lady knows the truth: on that date (Veteran’s Day?) the gates of hell will open and Nat is the key. The boy must be stopped, though there is a whole nest of Satanists trying to arrange events so that Nat does bring about the end of the world as we know it.
To call this movie low-rent is a disservice to grungy pornographers, exploitation peddlers, and inept amateur filmmakers. This movie is pathetic on just about every conceivable metric of filmmaking. First off, the premise is vague. We have this magical date looming, but what exactly happens? We’re told later that hell will open and maybe it’s the apocalypse or the rise of Satan or whatever. The kid, Nat, which by the way is the most annoying nick-name for somebody named Nathan (what was wrong with “Nate”?), is never made clear what role he will take. He’s the key to this whole deal but is Satan going to take over his body, as we see when he does some dastardly “no no” activities, or is Satan going to use him to release himself from hell? It’s never made clear, like much in the film, so the screenwriters make sure to cover their bases. Nat’s a demon child. Nat’s possessed. Nat’s scared of what’s under his bed. Nat’s mute. Nat can see into the future. Nat’s everything you need him to be. You’ll watch this movie constantly scratching your head, trying to get a feel for the rules or the boundaries of the narrative, grasping for nothing.
What you will be able to identify is the stupidity, which this movie has a never-ending supply of. Let’s tackle this numerological boogeyman thing head on. The shaky premise of 11/11/11 is that on that fated day the devil will rise up and… something. I’ll let the crazy old neighbor lady explain it best: “11 is God’s perfect number. One plus zero equals one [Editors note: Then shouldn’t one be the perfect number?]. Eleven is Satan’s number, it shows his arrogance, one more than God. Don’t you see? 11! Your son must die!” Well, I don’t need to hear anything else, pass the sacrificial blade this way. So I guess 666 just became passé and now 11 has become the new Satanic number of choice. Has anyone ever heard about this change? You know what, I’ll even go with this stupid idea. Let’s say what she said is true, so why does that mean that the year 2011 is the ultimate date of Armageddon? What about 1911, or 1811, or the first year 11 AD, or, God help us all, the year 1111? If eleven is Satan’s favorite integer then he missed a golden opportunity with that savory Middle Ages palindrome. Never mind the fact that our calendar is actually years off, but I’ll just assume that 11/11/11 takes place on its stated date even if people don’t know when that was. As a result of this numerological fanaticism, we’ll see lots and lots of clocks with some form of 11, like the very appearance of this number is meant to fashion fathomless dread. Oh no, the clock says it’s 11:40! Oh no, the clock says it’s 3:11! The clock face you dread the most is your own watch indicating that this movie is still not over. I thought we covered this numbers-are-evil nonsense with The Number 23. Once again, we have characters bending over backwards to try and make numbers fit into a pre-ordained pattern, supposedly enlightening us on all the spooky coincidences. So we have a character saying stuff like, “Flight 92 on September 11. 9 plus 2 equals 11.” Let me try: Wal-Mart has a special on PopTarts for $3.99. If you buy two, now 2 times 4 is 8, plus 10, divided by 8, times .5, and take the square root of who gives a shit?
What else is stupid in this movie? Where do I start? The conspiracy of Satanists feels like a terrible rip-off of Rosemary’s Baby, as these people form the worst neighborhood watch imaginable. They’re scheming to get Nat to unlock the End of Days, so they all do their checking up on the Vales family and eliminate any neighbors who say too much. This cozy little neighborhood is replete with death, including the fact that the Vales home was the scene of a massacre. One skittish neighbor informs Jack and Melissa that somebody had an “accident” on the block. “Is he okay?” Melissa asks. “Well, he fell and got impaled on his fence. So, I’d say… no.” I kid you not, that’s his exact wording. This skittish neighbor is also murdered later. This band of secret Satanists includes the new Vales nanny, Denise (Aurelia Scheppers, looking like a poutier Denise Richards). This new nanny murdered the other prospective nannies, which is one way to move ahead of the competition. This nanny is bad news. She teaches Nat all sorts of bad behavior, from frying butterflies with glass to hurling rocks at joggers. And the dumb kid does it with glee, making me lose all interest in whether or not he is Satan’s seed/host/whatever. Then Denise gives the kid a birthday present – an old, spooky-looking comb. To demonstrate, in case Nat is unfamiliar with comb technology, she drags the teeth across her arm and draws blood. Then she gives it over to him to do the same. What? What kid is like, “Oh, wow, a way to ritualistically injure myself? That’s the best birthday present an eleven-year-old could want.” I’m pretty sure the kid would have liked an Xbox over a strange demonic comb. And wouldn’t you know it, this comb makes a return appearance when our Satanic neighborhood watch collects to conduct their business in, I kid you not, a station wagon parked on the side of the street. It’s literally a station wagon with eight or nine people crammed in it, and it’s there all hours of the day.
Then there’s our crazy neighbor lady, whose name I can’t even recall. The screenwriters want us to distrust her from the beginning, and that’s fairly easy when we see how weirdly creepy she’s behaving. She’s obsessed with luring young Nat into her shed, and she keeps offering promises of toy trains, glasses of (poison) lemonade, and promises of cool, fun things. If only she knew a comb was all it would take. This woman is trying to lure Nat with all the verve of a child molester. She’s frantic to kill Nat, even calling Jack at work to lecture him on the necessity of killing his son. Why does the Satanic neighborhood watch let this woman slide on by when they kill any other neighbor for the slightest slip-up? Anyway, this woman just so happens to have a machete in her shed and you can imagine what happens from there.
One more scene of ridiculousness, please indulge me. After Jack sees his son covered in bloody scratches, he accuses the nanny and has her arrested. In a scene of great hilarity for myself, we cut to a scene where the cop and nanny are already in the home, and Denise is dressed like she’s going out for a night on the town, and she’s twirling her hair in her fingertips. The image is so absurd. She gets arrested and thrown into the cop car. “You’re going to regret this,” she warns. Then, magically, wasps come out of a crevice in the side door and the car fills up with a swarm. The cop tries swatting them away and drives headfirst into a telephone pole. I need to note that the editing is so bad in this scene, cutting back and forth between the cop swatting and the car swerving, that the shots never match, so it seems like the longest reaction shots. The car crashes and mysteriously this has caused Denise to magically remove her handcuffs. She strolls out of the car, down the street, and then the car takes its cue and promptly explodes. If this wasn’t dumb enough, we then see different shots of characters around the block reacting to the explosion, heard over and over. One of the Satanic neighbors, still sitting in the damn station wagon, has adept hearing: “That must have been that cop car.” You see, her sense of hearing is so sharp that she can distinguish the make, model, and employability of the car via explosion. Just imagine how useful/useless she’d be in a Michael Bay movie.
If 11/11/11 was just a supremely dumb movie it might work as camp, but it’s also inept as a scary movie. I don’t think director/co-writer Keith Allan could find an interesting looking shot if it held up a giant “11” sign. There is nothing scary about this movie whatsoever. All the shots of things with 11, it just doesn’t work, yet Allan keeps hitting it ad infinitum, mistakenly believing that while not effective on attempt 51, perhaps it will become effective on attempts 52-68. There’s a scene where Jack is standing watch at his son’s bed and the camera takes turns focusing on every stupid stuffed animal in the room, and Allan’s brilliant idea is to play a sound of the animal as we see its stuffed iteration. The stuffed bear is followed by a bear growl, etc. The fact that this series of animal noises continues for over a minute shows that Allan has no concept of what can scare or even what can entertain. His handling of actors is atrocious, as every single actor just bounces around the place, unmoored, unsure of what direction to take, so they take the wildest one. The actors are either monotone and flat or over-the-top, never believable for a second. Then there’s the “gotcha” ending which makes no sense considering Melissa is only three months pregnant and very much incapable of giving birth to a child, even if that unborn child is an unholy demonic terror.
11/11/11 is a date that will live in infamy, birthing this laughably awful, painfully ridiculous, atrociously inept movie, even by low-budget direct-to-DVD standards. The only entertainment you’ll find with this movie is the derisive sort, yukking it up over the unintended comedy bonanza that awaits. The movie is vague, silly, and overwhelmingly dumb, beholden to an inane numbers conspiracy that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. I know my expectations should be kept at the minimum when dealing with this kind of movie, but that doesn’t mean I just ignore and excuse every artistic blunder, especially when I feel assaulted by them. 11/11/11 did bring on the apocalypse, and every audience member has left to go to a better place – the bathroom. Bousman should take some comfort knowing that the production house behind this movie, The Asylum, is somewhat notorious for rip-offs. I give you The Asylum releases: Battle of Los Angeles, Paranormal Entity, Transmoprhers, and The Day the Earth Stopped. 11/11/11 can hold one more numerical distinction: it’s the worst film of 2011.
Nate’s Grade: F