The Number 23
This conspiracy theory chiller, penned by first time British screenwriter Fernley Phillips, turns on the notion that the number 23 is a diabolic digit pairing that’s ubiquitous and exhibits a pernicious effect on the world (the DNA of a child is comprised of 23 chromosomes from each parent; the Earth’s axis is off by 23.5 degrees; the assassination of Julius Caesar involved 23 stabbings; Shakespeare was born and died on 23 April, etc).
The unfortunate recipient of this numerological curse is unassuming suburban dogcatcher Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey). Sparrow begins to see the number everywhere after he starts reading a book his wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen) buys in a local second hand bookstore, the title of which dog-eared paperback is, of course, The Number 23. The further he gets into the book the more convinced Sparrow becomes that he’s the next recipient of a sinister curse. But is Sparrow really cursed, or is he just obsessed with a mathematical conspiracy theory?
Initially, The Number 23 is reasonably intriguing stuff. For the first half an hour you, like Carrey’s protagonist, will be spotting permutations of the titular number everywhere, from street signs to car licence plates. But as the plot unfolds, the film suffers from an uneven tone that mixes humour and horror, to detrimental effect. It’s almost as if Carrey’s making a comedy (half the time, at least) and director Joel Schumacher is directing something else. Which is a shame, because the star is otherwise very good. As intriguing as it is, The Number 23 doesn’t quite add up.