In the mysterious new horror film '11-11-11,' an American writer traveling in Spain and trying to re-connect with his brother encounters strange and horrific events that always involve the number 11. He soon discovers that the number's many appearances are prophetic warnings to a biblical end of days -- occurring on Nov. 11, 2011.
If you don't buy into numerology or religious apocalyptic scenarios, consider that neither did '11-11-11's' director Darren Lynn Bousman. Bousman got his start on the bloody 'Saw' series and was all set to make what he thought would be another scary movie, until real incidents on the set of of '11-11-11' involving a possibly haunted filming location changed his tune. Now, the director counts himself among those who are seriously freaked out by the idea of the end of the world happening sooner than you think. Moviefone spoke with the '11-11-11' director about the film's haunted set and why religion might be the scariest thing about modern society.
How did '11-11-11' affect your own belief in numerology and end-of-days prophecies?
I feel like a jackass even talking about this, because it makes me seem like a f-cking insane person. I came into this movie not believing in anything. I had no belief outside of "I like scary movies." However, after going to Spain and shooting this movie, we had numerous experiences that shifted my entire interpretation. Two thirds of the movie takes place in a house on the Mediterranean Sea; we shot in this really crazy location that was seeped in a very macabre history.
Some of the crew refused to go in the house, but what was more disconcerting to me was that the landlord who showed the house to us, refused to step in the house. He handed us the keys and said, "You guys can go look." I felt uneasy just driving up to the place. There were weird drawings on the wall, there was a kid's room with really weird emblems and diagrams. The house we found was run and used by a cult for seances. We were the first people to be allowed in to go shoot there. Someone was murdered inside of it in the 1900s. The house sat empty for years and years and years. We had to clean up the aftermath of this cult. It changed my perception of "this sh-t's not real, there's nothing out there."
My DP, a self-proclaimed atheist, doesn't believe in anything. I was telling him this story about the house and he was saying, "It's all in your head." He stepped in that house and immediately wanted to leave. He got sick, and for a long time we thought it was some kind of weird thing in the air. We had the air tested, nothing was wrong. One day after arriving at the house, a light fell from the ceiling, hit him on the head, sent him to the emergency room. A second AD, who felt awkward and scared about going into the house, was pushed down the stairs by something, broke his leg, sent to the emergency room. A prop guy who was going through his props, while no one else was in the house, something fell and hit him on the head, sent him to the emergency room. All of these weird injuries took place, and luckily nobody was seriously injured, but we had numerous ambulances arriving to and from that house. No matter what I say people are going to think it's hype for a movie.
It feels like we're heading into this trend in horror of "the beginning of the end." 'The Walking Dead' is a huge hit on TV and there's more films looking at the end on a global sense. It's not slashers anymore.
I was in Spain doing re-shoots when that guy Harold Camping said the rapture was coming. This guy made a prediction, this one dude in this little tiny radio station with a handful of followers made a prediction that the world listened to. Being in Spain, there were people standing outside, watching the sky, waiting. It was crazy!
Look at what's going in the world, we have Occupy Wall Street, you have all these people that are rising against something, and I think that every time we turn on the news it's death and destruction. Something big is going to happen. These kind of movies reflect that.
Horror is a cycle, "torture porn" turned to "haunted house," 'Saw' turned to 'Paranormal Activity.' Religion is scary, whether you believe it or not. Even atheists who claim they believe in nothing, they believe in something; their belief is nothing. When you challenge someone's belief system, when you challenge the idea that rapture is coming, it affects everyone, because we're all brought up to believe in something. You drive down the street, there's churches on every single street corner. It is soothing, they plan their Sundays around going to service. I think when you start to mess with those ideas, it strikes a chord with people.
You talk about a change coming, what elements of the modern world scare you?
When you hear that thing about rapture, it's easier to laugh at him. It's easier to say "This guy's a f-cking lunatic." But how many people covered it? Huffington Post, CNN, FOX News, LA Times, everyone covered it. It was on the front page of the Barcelona paper. If we think this guy's a wackjob, how is everyone covering this? And why was everyone waiting with bated breath as that day approached? People were selling their houses and saying goodbye to their family. Civilization, from the beginning, has been based on a religion. "This is what happens when you die, this is where you go."
I love religious studies because people choose what they want to believe. Most people I know that are Christian choose to believe in this verse, this verse, this verse and this verse. "Let's throw out these three verses 'cause they don't make sense." If you believe in the Bible you have to believe in it all. You can't hand pick the verses you believe in, that's hypocritical. If you believe that a guy cured lepers and rose from the dead, then you have to believe that the other guy lived in a whale and a snake talked. If you believe in these things, you have to open yourself up to demons, to hell, to this war that's being fought. I think that a lot of people believe in just the verses that are convenient to them and not the verses that scare them. When you ask what scares me, it's the unknowing. It's the fact that no one knows.
With the way people paid attention to that rapture claim, and with death and destruction on the news, how do you scare modern audiences when they're already inundated?
It's become harder and harder. What used to scare people was throwing a woman in a pit of needles or having someone cut their eye. We've become so desensitized to violence you have to find another way to scare them.
I was brought up in a somewhat religious household; when I had to go to Sunday school I chose to believe in this, but I refused to believe in the next verse after it. You take something that is real and you force people to look at something they are refusing to look at. I think that it's a lot easier to get a scare when doing something like that, more than what I used to do. Having a little puppet on a tricycle back in the day, that was scary. With all the 'Hostels' and 'Devil's Rejects,' people have become used to seeing that.
Are there any filmmakers or artists that are really scaring you right now?
I think Ti West is amazing. 'House of the Devil,' there's a great example. '11-11-11' is a somewhat slow burn but for the king of slow burn, it's Ti West. In 'House of the Devil,' you're sitting there and you know something bad is going to happen, it's just that lingering and waiting for it to actually occur. He's got great characters and he takes such patience to get the shot.
I still go back to the old films. The trilogy of Polanski's: 'Repulsion,' 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Tenant' hands down are still my favorite. 'The Shining' is still one of my favorites. Today even, some of the scariest movies are 'The Exorcist,' 'The Omen.'
How scary was it to commit to a movie that had a a definitive release date in the title?
One of the things I was concerned about from the very top is, "Will this movie have a shelf life after the 11-11-11 thing?" If you watch '2012' on 2013 it doesn't make sense because you know what has or hasn't happened. While this movie is about a date, it's about what happens on the date. It's been crazy. It's really the only way to work though.
Originally I turned the project down. I wasn't interested in anything dealing with numerology. He said, "Do me a favor, go home, think about it, don't say no yet, just give me 24 hours and think about how the number 11 is important in your life." I started to realize all of these kind of happenstance things around 11; my birthday is January 11th. And then he goes, "Let me tell you the last scene," and the producer pitched me the last scene. Immediately I was like, "Oh my god that's awesome." The minute he told me what the ending was going to be, I was like, "I got to do that."
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