Friday, 4 May 2018

Dead By Dawn 2018: Trench 11 (2017)

We know that war is hell, of course, which makes it surprising that we don't have even more horror movies set during wartime. There are some, ranging from the flawed brilliance of The Keep to the entertaining lunacy of Frankenstein's Army, and you can include films as varied as Twilight Zone: The Movie, Jacob's Ladder, and Iron Sky, but they remain a very small percentage of the horror genre (not counting the multitude of SS/war torture exploitation flicks), and the truly effective war horrors are even rarer.

I am saying all this because Trench 11 is a horror movie set during wartime, and it happens to be a very good one.

The plot revolves around a plan to explore and destroy the titular trench. It will take a small team, and they will all be relying on the expertise of a tunneler named Berton (Rossif Sutherland), but nobody is prepared for what they find underground; the dangerous results of experiments into biological weaponry by the Germans.

Directed by Leo Scherman, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Booi, this is a very enjoyable mix of subterranean claustrophobia, classic evil German villains (not Nazis, but close enough), and squirmy, squishy, body horror. It manages to be different from all of the films already mentioned above, while also managing to hit one or two familiar beats for this subgenre.

The cast all do a good job, and they ARE given enough moments to show some personality before everything starts to go to hell in a hand grenade, but it always feels like Sutherland's movie, allowing him the biggest share of the screentime as his nervous hero remains determined to get the job done as quickly as possible and then get the hell out of the trench. Matching our lead hero is Robert Stadlober as the main villain. His character, Reiser, is someone who views the chais and pain and death around him as a success. It shows that the biological weapon works even better than they could have dreamed.

Another big plus for the film is that is refreshingly unpretentious. This is not a film that wants to pile multiple layers on and ask us to delve into the dark psyche of shellshocked soldiers. It throws us into a very terrifying environment with the characters, it adds more and more horror around every dark corner or metal door, and it ultimately provides superior entertainment for genre fans.


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