Starring Rossif Sutherland, Adam Hurtig, Shaun Benson, Robert Stadlober
Directed by Leo Scherman
A subgenre of horror that I personally feel doesn’t get enough entries is horror set during a large-scale war. There’s something about that backdrop that gives those film a certain atmosphere, one that no other subgenre manages to capture. It’s why I’m drawn to movies like Death Watch, Below, and Pan’s Labyrinth, which use war to amplify the terrors the protagonists face.
All of this is to explain why I was drawn to catching a screening of Trench 11 at this year’s Telluride Horror Show. The story of several soldiers who are sent into a supposedly abandoned German bunker under the suspicion that it holds proof of biological and chemical experimentations. What they don’t know is that the Germans are sending in their own team to clean up the mess, which presents as Germans having been infected with aggression-inducing parasites.
I’ll start by giving this film credit where credit is due. They certainly made the most out of what must be a modest budget. The set design convincingly conveys the tunnels and trenches of World War 1-scarred Europe and the little details amongst the soldiers feel authentic. The performances from the stars were very solid, especially the eventual relationship between Berton (Sutherland) and Müller (Benson), which becomes rather endearing and charming.
For those who seek gore, this film will not leave you wanting. Flesh is ripped from faces, heads explode in geysers of blood, and much more. The FX are also quite solid and clearly take inspiration from John Carpenter’s The Thing, especially the transforming dog sequence.
Where the film goes astray is in three main areas. First, and this is a rather strange consequence of good intentions, the movie loves to use Edison bulbs, which are a beautiful addition to a scene but they emit very yellow lights. For those of you who use a dimming program on your computer, such as F.Lux, you know that once you remove a lot of blues from your light, it’s easy to become quite tired and fall asleep. Trench 11 suffers from that very effect and I found my eyelids becoming quite heavy at various points.
Second, Trench 11 has a strange and out-of-place synth score. I understand that such soundtracks have become quite common with indie films but it needs to suit the film and its aesthetics. While I love a good synthwave soundtrack, a film like this would’ve benefitted greatly from a string quartet or something equally organic.
Last, the pacing of the film is uneven. When cutting between action and excitement, the jumps can be unpleasantly and unexpectedly jarring. Additionally, some dialogue scenes overstay their welcome.
Trench 11 will surely give some people a satisfying and disturbing ride. Packed with gore and atmosphere, it suffers from pacing issues and an out-of-place score. If you stumble across it late one night, you could do far worse.