Director Darren Lynn Bousman is one of those workhorse directors who seems to live by the adage: "It's harder to hit a moving target." Still, the filmmaker has seen his share of bad reviews, especially from those who expected him to trade in on his fame in regard to the three Saw movies he directed (from II to IV). I'm more on the flipside of that criticism — while I thought some Saw movies fared better than others, I couldn't call myself a fan. What really got my attention was Bousman's rock 'n roll horror grand guignol black comedy musical (yep, that's what I said!), Repo! The Genetic Opera.
Since Repo! was released in 2008, Bousman has directed three feature films (The Barrens is coming soon) and one extended short. This is not just a big year for him, it's a big month. Within weeks of each other, The Devil's Carnival went on the road, and 11-11-11: The Prophecy and Mother's Day hit DVD.
Here's our review of The Devil's Carnival , and one on an early release cut of Mother's Day . I'm going to concentrate on 11-11-11: The Prophecy here, because I feel it was judged rather harshly when it came out last November. (10% on the Rotten Tomatoes website, 9 out of 10 reviews deemed it "rotten".)
Let me clarify by saying this prophecy-riddled mystery is hardly the Second Coming, but it's a perfectly serviceable thriller and is in line with The Number 23, The Seventh Sign, and The Celestine Prophecy. None of those films were well-reviewed (especially the latter, which shows only 4% on the Tomato-Meter), so maybe it's the subject matter. Personally, I enjoy "prophecy movies" so maybe that's why, while I didn't love it, I didn't mind 11-11-11.
The story follows a series of strange events leading up to November 11, 2011 as witnessed and experienced by a renowned writer (Joseph Crone, played by Timothy Gibbs) who's grieving the loss of his wife and son in a fire set by an obsessive fan — time of deaths recorded at 11:11 p.m., needless to say. Though he's given up hope, and renounced his faith in God, Joseph is coaxed to Spain to be with his immediate family. None of whom, by the way, seem able enough to do much to cheer him up — his father is lying on his deathbed, and his pastor brother is in a wheelchair — but Joseph puts on a brave face. At first. Before long, the 11-11-11 numerology starts to haunt him. The rest of the movie moves along in a slow but suspenseful build to the fulfillment of the prophecy which, according to acolytes, will open the gates of hell for the Anti-Christ to pass through.
While the movie is beautifully shot, gloriously appointed as far as the sets and locations, and well-acted, some of the direction is heavy handed, the angsty brooding scenes plod on, and the demons are pretty weak (especially one that pops out of nowhere and spreads his wings like they're Bela Lugosi's cape — even Bousman laughs at that one, in the audio commentary). Still, in all, I found the characters and the plot interesting enough to stick with for just under an hour and a half.
There's a really great, funny, self-deprecating — if a tad bitter — DVD commentary track with Bousman and his co-producer Laura Bousman, plus a behind-the-scenes featurette which shows the beautiful mansion (not a set), some of the other locations, brief interviews, and of course "the stories" about the scary things that really happened while they were filming — because you cannot do a horror movie of any kind without "the stories".
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson