Trench 11 (2017)

Trench 11 (2017)

Violence Is Contagious

Towards the end of the First World War, a group of Allied soldiers are sent to investigate reports of a secret German bunker where an officer called Reiner is alleged to experimenting with various chemicals and diseases in an attempt to find a weapon to turn the war in Germany’s favour. However, none of them are prepared for what they find deep below the surface in Trench 11.

 

Swapping the traditional Second World War/Nazi approach that most war period horrors take to the lesser-utilised First World War, Trench 11 is a psychological horror film that promised a lot more than it actually delivered. World War One is a time period we don’t see too often in films, particularly horror films, and so Trench 11 was able to come at the genre material with a slightly new spin. I can only think of Deathwatch which has taken the Great War for its backdrop – everything else features the Nazis conducting experiments during the Second World War. This should mean the story feels fresh and exciting, right?

Trench 11 has lashing of atmosphere and an ominous setting but literally does nothing worthwhile with it. For a start, the period setting is completely believable. Uniforms look top notch. Facial hair and dialogue are very much stiff-upper Brit worthy (check out some of the old school moustaches on show). The sets are decorated with glorious antiquated details so clearly a lot of time has been spent in recreating the era. The tunnels look great: really dark, claustrophobic and unnerving. So why on Earth does the film do so little with them? Trench 11 plays like a traditional war film for too long, without any real shift to the more supernatural and horrific elements, but even these elements seem only for show, as if the filmmakers wanted to say “Look we are different, this isn’t a World War 2 horror flick.” Take out the obvious period elements and the film could have been set within any other period, era or even location with the same results. It doesn’t help that there is far too much exposition to begin with, the plot virtually told to the audience in the first ten minutes, and then once the action and horror starts to kick in, there’s virtually no plot. The balance is all wrong.

You see, the Germans have left behind a parasite which completely takes over its victim, turning them into something resembling a zombie. There are shades of The Thing here, with the confined paranoia of the survivors threatening to erupt more than any non-human menace does. But that’s all it does – threaten to erupt rather than fully exploding. When the parasites are seen during a certain autopsy sequence, let’s just say you won’t want to be eating noodles or spaghetti any time soon. Like everything else in the film, this particular element to the plot isn’t really developed to its full potential and is simply an excuse for a horde of German zombies to start trashing the place during the film’s more action-orientated sections. We never really get to the bottom of just what these experiments were and how they work but the film isn’t bothered about that once the German soldiers are wrecking stuff up. The special effects and make-up department do a commendable job in making the creature-based stuff so creepy and effective; you just wish the film would have done a bit more with it as there’s no way the stuff on offer, particularly the blood and guts, will satisfy any serious gore hounds.

This is a recurring theme throughout Trench 11 – potential but failure to capitalise on it. It goes so far and then seems to stop. Trench 11 never really pays back the audience’s faith and time investment with any worthwhile resolutions. Characters are killed off suddenly after the audience had spent time getting to them and with their arcs still yet to be concluded. Ideas like the virus and the worm-like parasites are given centre-stage as the film’s main threat, only for it to be over-shadowed by the human villain in the film’s finale. With the shift in focus, Trench 11 loses a lot of its suspense and atmosphere and becomes more of a standard issue Allies versus Germans showdown.

Rossif Sutherland, son of Donald and half-brother of Kiefer, stars in the lead role and does a decent job but this is a very much a whole cast of characters affair. Scene-stealers involve Ted Atherton as Captain Jennings, the embodiment of the ‘I know better than you’ attitude of so many entitled officers back in the war, and Charlie Carrick as the doctor. It’s unusual to see so many decent characters being constructed in a low budget film like this but credit to the script for giving them time to flesh out before they get put through the ringer. Even slimy Robert Stadlober, as the German scientist Reiner, is able to do more than just ham it up as the token German bad guy.

 

Trench 11 mixes a lot of stuff together and the final product is decent, if not completely satisfying. It’s not a full-on horror film, nor is it a pure war film and the result is something which doesn’t quite sit well in either genre. It delivers a few nasty scenes and a few memorable moments but nothing which will linger in the mind.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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