Taking tips from Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing, throwing in a dash of 28 Days Later and then the classic Steve McQueen’s The Great Escape (1963) and you find a weird horror film from Canada called Trench 11. All of this wrapped up in director and writer Leo Scherman responsible for many television episodes including twelve for Scare Tactics show and wrote Living Death (2006) delivers this interesting bloodbath set in World War I for a change and in the winter Leo, received some assistance from co-writer Matt Booi. Often enough the war-horror movies set themselves during the WWII and the sickening horrific acts, which never should escape the mind or history books, but to change it to an earlier time, shows that inhumanity existed always, and evil has no boundaries. Needless to say the movie does quite a bit on its meager $1.6 million budget, which starts slow but builds nicely and by the second act goes into full horror mode, now available to viewers from RLJE Films.
William Tecumseh Sherman, a general of the Union Army and much more in his incredible life, uttered the famous phrase, “war is hell” and no one can disagree with the statement. That concept transcends into cinema, with war dramas and action movies, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, but the horror genre has a solid footing with military-themes. Many often look at Frankenstein’s Army (2013), Jacob’s Ladder (1990), but also, Predator (1987), Below (2002) and Deathdream (1974), now noting I excluded the Nazisploitation flicks.
After unexpectedly surviving being buried 80-feet underground for 12-days, Canadian military tunneler (a real job in WWI) Lt. Berton (Rossif Sutherland (Dead Before Dawn 3D ) understandably wants nothing more to do with subterranean settings. However, what a solider wants doesn’t matter, orders do, therefore when a British intelligence located a secret bunker a recon mission goes into action. Berton forced to join a trio of American soldiers escorting a British Major Jennings (Ted Atherton (Rabid )) and Dr Priest (Charlie Carrick) in France a few miles from the front lines during the final weeks of the WWI to perform a final military mission 78-feet underground, under suspicions surrounding Germans weaponizing chemicals. As the war turned in the Allies’ favor, this stroke of good luck allows them to dispatch a team to investigate the massive bunker under Trench 11 at the Wotan Compound. Berton’s mission is to navigate the men, safety through the tight trench, and maze which many fear as the explosion rain down overhead. Just a few things, none of them know, what the Germans were up-to their plans or this this installation missions decree. No one on the team questions the orders, until far too late, finding dangerous maddening experiments of biological weaponry by the Germans (not Nazis). Adding the subterranean claustrophobia, thoughts of buried alive, entombed in a living grave, and mix with plenty of body horror, scene of impromptu autopsy of a German soldier having his ribcage spread open by turn-of-the-century medical tools. The discovery of a worm virus festering in the minds and bodies of the soldiers, especially a nice scene of applying pressure to a dead man’s head, hello spaghetti time – yummy. Soon the Germans arrive unannounced and the problems mount quickly with more zombie-like attacks and Reiner (Robert Stadlober), responsible for the biological project, who acts very entitled and pompous and clearly enjoys death and chaos. While Berton develops a friendship with Prussian officer Muller (Shaun Benson (Home Sweet Home ) who shows his moral conscience understanding this abomination needs to end. His tone on the subject of the abomination, leaves a little ambiguity reference the experiment and/or the entire war and crimes against humanity. A thriller with horror waiting in the darkness, and if a sag hits, then await for the blast of blood and terror.
Scherman does not shy away from any of the brutality, the kills a mix of practical and visual effects, to enhance the body horror, all very commendable for disturbing work. He also places a great control over the pacing, never feeling rushed, providing a solid storytelling thriller, using visuals to heighten the horror factors. A key scene involves a shotgun blast at close-range and someone losing their head. At no time does Leo go for a cheap laugh, the situation never calls for it and definitely doesn’t create it inside of the tension and suffering psychological suspense is foremost in this film. A few key elements, first many times in films the foreign soldiers either speak English or they speak in their language and the camera zooms to their mouth and then back to establish the transfer to English, i.e. The Hunt for the Red October (1990). However, in this flick, at a German meeting the officers spoke German, with English subtitles. Secondly, the zombie-creature solider engages in a physical fight with an American troop, and a grenade falls to the ground pin pulled, but the less than human creature grabs it and flees, showing it wants to die, and yet does the self sacrifice by collapsing part of the tunnel sealing them inside the tunnels.
First, don’t expect wall-to-wall zombies, this movie relies on the psychological tension, it contains some body horror made famous in both Scanners (1981) and The Fly (1986), but not enough for gore hounds or splatterpunks. The overall concept of the movie falls between a military and horror themed flick relying on the true statement of “war is hell” and what madness in some people, should never escape the confines of Trench 11.
IMDb Rating: 6.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10