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observation notes: 11/11/11

With a lot of Asylum-attention this week focused on Saturday night's SyFy premiere of Zombie Apocalypse, not a lot has been said about the other Asylum film out in the next few days, the apocalyptic numerological thriller 11/11/11, directed by Keith Allan and written by Allan & Kiff Scholl. Allow me, then, to talk about it, as I have just seen it.

Plot-wise, 11/11/11 concerns a set of parents, Jack (Jon Briddell) and Melissa (Erin Coker), who become increasingly alarmed at their son Nat(Hayden Byerly)'s erratic and violent behavior. And they have every right to be: seems Nat isn't just acting up, he's the key to the whole freaking Apocalypse, which is nigh, people, and only two weeks away in real time - 11/11/11, the kid's birthday. Helluva set-up.

As usual, I'll refrain from spoilers, but suffice it to say, what we have here is a taut, well-paced, dramatic, suspenseful, sinister and bloody thriller of Biblical proportions, literally. It's a film that opens with a bang - several of them, actually - and ends even more explosively. Think equal parts The Omen, The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby; a heady cocktail, believe me.

The cast has a lot to do with 11/11/11's success: whether principles or supporting, most everyone here brings their A-game. Briddell plays the father as concerned to the point of angered frustration, a powerful but helpless man, and is appropriately tortured. Coker as his wife - though bedridden much of the film - is the fragile heart of the story, delusional with fear and medication and burdened by an unbelievable truth she shares alone. But it's Byerly as the son who practically steals the show. He's stoic, soft-spoken but rigid, not sheepish, plain-faced and pensive until he needs to erupt and then the boy's a true devil. Kid's got chops, and they're on full display here.

Then there's the deep supporting cast, the characters who make up the neighbors and townsfolk with an eerie interest in the boy's upcoming birthday: Tracy Pulliam as bossy, busy-body realtor Janice; David Bertolami and Rebecca Sigl as Chris and Sarah, the too-nice neighbors with spooky lingering stares; Nicholas S. Williams as Mick, the mentally-challenged truth-speaker; Greg Wall as Mike the janitor; co-screenwriter Kiff Scholl and Melissa Wintringham as over-perky joggers Brian and Marie - this one really is a team effort, with everyone turning in convincing performances. 

The two standouts of the supporting cast, in my opinion, have to be Madonna Magee as Annie, the creepy-kooky stalker old lady next door with a heart of gold, a load of hard-earned wisdom and a touch of good, old-fashioned madness; and Aurelia Scheppers as Denise, the "nanny" and the film's sultry femme fatale - think a smarter, more dangerous Megan Fox.

Add to this fine story and these stellar performances the once-again spot-on musical score of Chris Ridenhour (really, this guy, like Asylum productions in general, gets better every film. I want a box set of his scores) and sweeping, approaching-epic direction of Allan, and it all equals a thrilling, brutal, convincingly-frightening and horribly plausible film - numerically and Biblically speaking - well-executed by all. 

In all honesty, I really liked the crap out of this one; it's one of my favorites of the year, I think. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself this Tuesday, November 1st, when 11/11/11 hits DVD, just in time for you to get your affairs in order. I'm kidding. I hope.

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