Trench 11


Reviewed by: Emilia Rolewicz

Trench 11
"When the film focuses on the living over the undead it is at its strongest."

In France during the final weeks of the Second World War, a British Major, Jennings (Ted Atherton) and Dr Priest (Charlie Carrick) are ordered to perform a last minute military mission 78 feet underground, investigating suspicions surrounding Germans weaponising chemicals. Much to Jennings’ disgust he and Priest must team up with the “Americans” and an experienced Canadian tunneller, Berton, to shed light on the dark mysteries burrowed beneath them.

In no time, Jennings and Dr Priest drag Berton from his morning liquor, and, just in case we forgot that the two leading the operation are, in fact, British soldiers, they sit down in the snow with their ornate silver teapot while the Americans pop pills, throw back Scotch and cocaine up their brains. After these morning rituals, the tensions peak and factionalise them further underground. Jennings is accused by the Americans of pushing for the risky assignment, with a view to elevating his title to colonel. The conflict between allies is touched on but cuts itself short as the film transitions into a zombie movie.

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The zombie element distracts from, rather than adds to, the drama. It turns out these undead are connected to the experiments of Reiner (Robert Stadlober), the German military leader, whose demeanour is somewhere between a Bond villain and a mad scientist. Priest makes it clear that the aggression these zombies inhibit has been “engineered,” and from then on the film opens up its trench of horrors to operate on war’s moral wounds. If the zombies are a commentary about the origins of good and evil, is Reiner’s violence therefore also “engineered” by someone else? Where do the puppet strings end and begin? There seem to be so many that Trench 11’s threads become too tangled for the broader message it aspires to.

When the film focuses on the living over the undead it is at its strongest. There is a powerful moment between Berton and his supposed enemy from the Prussian-German allegiance, Müller, (Shaun Benson) when they stare up hopefully at the starry night through an escape hole but remain guttered by their duty. Trench 11 is unfortunately unharmonised by its confused zombie horror, throwing a grenade into the humanising war drama it could have been, but as the Wilfred Owen poem goes: "Dulce et Decorum est [It is sweet and proper] to make zombie films for thy country."

Reviewed on: 12 Aug 2018
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In the final days of WWI a shell-shocked soldier must lead a mission deep beneath the trenches of No Man’s Land to stop a German experiment that could turn the tide of the war. But the Germans have already lost control...

Director: Leo Scherman

Writer: Matt Booi, Leo Scherman

Starring: Rossif Sutherland, Charlie Carrick, Robert Stadlober, Shaun Benson, Karine Vanasse

Year: 2017

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Canada


Grimmfest 2017

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