It might be because of the upcoming Overlord movie (trailer), but this year has shown an unusual high number of war-related horror movies. I’ve already seen Boots on the Ground – a British found-footage horror flick set in Afghanistan – I just watched Trench 11 and I will obviously be seeing Overlord.
Trench 11 is set in France, in 1918 during the last days of the so-called Great War. In short, we follow a group of soldiers – English, American and Canadian ones – who are sent to a German trench (called trench 11… you didn’t see that coming, did ya?) to recover some information about German pseudo-scientific experiments. Once they get to the titular location, our characters unravel a truth that’s much darker and potentially lethal than they initially thought. To make matters worse, a few German soldiers get back to the same trench to destroy the evidence of those experiments, in order not to be charged with hideous war crimes as they know full well they’re losing World War I.
The idea of period horror flicks is always intriguing, since it can provide the genre with a new spin based on different locations and times. Also, World War I is a time in history that we don’t often see on screen, which would work as a compelling setting.
Trench 11, however, doesn’t utilise any of the potentially interesting concepts that come with such a scenario. Don’t get me wrong, besides the first act (which is extremely stupid, exposition-heavy and formulaic), this is quite an entertaining horror flick. Nonetheless, it could’ve just as well been set in any other era or place and the results wouldn’t change, which means the filmmakers failed at make the best of their setting.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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What does this movie do right, then? First of all, Trench 11 is very gruesome. It will most likely please hard-core gore-hounds and, indeed, the practical effects in display are extremely well crafted. Besides one obnoxiously fake scene that relies on CG blood, the makeup artists can be proud of themselves, as they really did justice to the body-horror sub-genre. There is an autopsy sequence in particular that will stuck with me for a while, even though it was a bit too much off-putting.
Yet, the acting isn’t bad at all: this movie has the problem of featuring too many characters, all squished in the 90-minute-long running time, but the casting didn’t disappoint, especially due to the performances of a German commandant and a British doctor. Even though these poor actors didn’t have a lot to work with, due to the one-dimensional nature of their characters, their performances were quite solid.
Again, after the first act, Trench 11 is never boring nor uneventful: the trench itself, sort of a maze with dangers at every turn, serves as a good way to build up tension and the more action-pact scenes are satisfying and gory.
However, director Leo Scherman (who collaborated with David Cronenberg in a few recent efforts by the master of body horror) failed in other departments. Since I brought up the first act twice already, let’s start from that: it’s silly. It’s silly because it starts with 10 minutes of pure exposition, where English and German generals explain to the fine audience everything they need to know, thus what happens in the movie – and the curiosity that should’ve come from that – are taken out immediately. Also, in the first 30 minutes of the film we only witness fake and badly executed jump-scares that interrupt the audience’s boredom to watch a group of people just walking with guns in their hands without doing anything.
Yet, on a technical level, Trench 11 is surprisingly weak. For example, the light in the trench clearly doesn’t come from the soldiers’ torch but it’s either a set light or it was added in post-production. It seems like I’m nit-picking and I’m sure many people won’t pick up on it, but it did bother me because it took me out of the movie in a scenario where being drown in is all that matters.
Ultimately, the ending was corny as hell. I can’t elaborate more on that without getting into spoilers, but trust me, it’s really bad.
Trench 11 could’ve been a very entertaining, ultra-violent experience, but it ultimately failed many key aspects, although it’s not a bad movie per se nor one I would suggest to avoid.
Trench 11 6/10