Do you like movie Nazis? Do you like sort-of-zombies? Do you like the dark and explosions and creepy, icky worms and a steaming heaping of body horror? Then boy, do we have a movie for you! (Though technically we can’t call them Nazis as this film is set during WW1 but really the line here is paper thin. All Reiner really needs is a swastika on his uniform.)
Originally released as Trench 11, it has been renamed to Death Trench in the UK, which is a somewhat cheesier title, but certainly a descriptive one. Though were we to be really pedantic we could point out that very little of the action actually takes place in a trench, filled with death or otherwise, but in a giant underground tunnel complex that the Germans in these films always seem terribly fond of building for all manner of nefarious goings-on.
In the final days of WW1, a small team is sent to investigate a mysterious German base, buried nearly a hundred feet deep and miles away from any actual fighting. Led by war-weary tunneller Lieutenant Berton (Rossif Sutherland) this team of English Intelligence officers and American soldiers find that things are obviously wrong from the get-go, with entrances sealed and ladders destroyed – not to keep something out, but to keep something in. From this point on things only go downhill, both literally and metaphorically, as the soldiers delve ever deeper into this shadowy complex.
Hats off to writer Matt Booi and writer/director Leo Scherman. Following on from movies like The Bunker, Outpost and the similarly WW1 set Death Watch, this is a gloriously executed little slice of war-themed horror. We’ve seen the Hun/Nazi delve into all manner of experiments, including summoning demons, trying to make super soldiers, tampering with the fabric of space and time, and in this particular incident, tossing any rules of warfare out the door. The practical effects are a delight. Things writhe and squirm and ooze in disturbing visceral ways, occasionally slightly interrupted by what appears to be some distressingly obvious uses of CGI blood, but luckily they only show up in a couple of scenes and really don’t take away from what the effects department has managed here. The autopsy scene in particular brings up comparisons to the now-infamous autopsy from Carpenter’s The Thing.
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The only niggle, other than the CGI blood, is that occasionally the score from Kevin Krouglow (Property Brothers, Ice Road Truckers) is somewhat intrusive, switching tone rather obviously in the middle of one scene like someone just skipped to the next track. The soundtrack here is quite electronic heavy, eschewing what you might expect from a war or even a horror movie.
There are no major complaints with the acting on show: clichés nicely avoided for the most part, stereotypes kept to a minimum. Particular mention should be given to both Rossif Sutherland and to Shaun Benson (playing the German Kapitan Müller). Both come across as men sick of war, tired of the constant bloodshed and the atrocities committed by both sides. Their uneasy truce in the latter part of the film eventually becomes the real heart and soul of the story as the two men try to ensure that the things carried out within the complex never make it to the outside world.
Death Trench/Trench 11 is a worthy addition to this particular sub-genre of horror – claustrophobic films that focus on a small cast of characters trapped in a confined space with something that is out to kill them, or eat them, or implant eggs into them. Alien, The Descent, The Thing, Rec, Cube and more – Death Trench can stand proudly side by side with them as being a worthy inclusion to any horror fan’s library.