J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Screamfest LA ’17: Trench 11

The death and disillusionment of WWI led to a surge in interest in spiritualism and the occult, so a WWI horror movie makes plenty of sense as a concept. Of course, for one Canadian tunneller, the war was already horrific enough. The last thing he needs is a German mad scientist weaponizing a zombie serum. Much to the regret of his Prussian commanding officer, Dr. Reiner has tried to do exactly that, but the results are disastrous in Leo Scherman’s Trench 11 (trailer here), which screens tonight during Screamfest LA.

The war has turned in the Allies’ favor, allowing them to dispatch a team to investigate the massive bunker under Trench 11. The retreating Germans tried to destroy it, but they couldn’t finish the job. Captain Jennings and Dr. Priest from British Intelligence are convinced there is something nasty down there, so they requisition Abrahm Berton, the best tunneller available, and a small American escort.

Unfortunately, they find the bunker is not so abandoned after all and some of the Germans have become so savage, they even attack their fellow countryman. As we would expect, none of this bothers a true believer like Reiner, a.k.a. “The Prophet,” who sees the mutated soldiers as a means of cleansing Europe of its decadence.

Scherman and co-screenwriter Matt Booi definitely suggest Reiner and Müller, his ostensive commander, foreshadow the National Socialists and the resistance put up by select aristocratic officers, such as Von Stauffenberg. Yet, despite Müller’s moral conscience, the film definitely does not do any favors for Germany’s national image.

Of course, Berton the Canadian is our primary POV character of this Winnipeg-shot, Raven Banner-distributed film, which rather makes sense. In fact, Rossif Sutherland carries the film quite well as the battle-scarred but still steely tunneller, so it all works out rather nicely. Shaun Benson is also terrific as the disillusioned but decisive Müller, but Robert Stadlober’s Reiner looks and sounds more like an obnoxious club kid than an evil genius.

Since most of the film takes place in a candle-lit subterranean bunker, lighting (simply for viewer watchability) is an issue throughout the film. However, the dark, shell-damaged location is undeniably creepy and claustrophobic. This is definitely one of the better weird war movies in a while. Indeed, it is considerably superior to an obvious comp film like Frankenstein’s Army, but Dead Snow; Red vs. Dead still towers over all challengers. Recommended wholeheartedly for horror fans, Trench 11 screens tonight (10/11) during Screamfest LA.

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