Trench 11 DVD Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
DVD released by RLJE Films
Directed by Leo Scherman
Written by Matt Booi and Leo Scherman
2018, 90 minutes, Not Rated
Released on September 4th, 2018
Rossif Sutherland as Berton
Robert Stadlober as Herr Reiner
Shaun Benson as Herr Müller
Charlie Carrick as Dr. Priest
Ted Atherton as Jennings
Luke Humphrey as Budman
Jeff Strome as Pronger
Adam Hurtig as Kelly
It's nice when a movie's tagline gives you the theme right up front: VIOLENCE IS CONTAGIOUS. I like that. It gets the bullshit out of the way and sets the tone. That's fitting, given that the backdrop for Trench 11 is the trenches and underground bunkers of WWI. Don't get it twisted, though…this is no History Channel production (no offense, Vikings, because you're amazing). I simply mean that this is unabashedly a horror film, although it certainly has something to say.
The concept of Trench 11 is so simple that it's a story that almost tell itself. At the close of WWI, Allied forces have taken the Argonne. British Intelligence officers Jennings (Ted Atherton, SyFy's The Expanse) and Dr. Priest (Charlie Carrick, CW's Reign) have discovered an unusually deep series of trenches and tunnels far behind enemy lines where there would be no reason to have any. They're ordered to take a ragtag team of Americans from "the Big Red One" and a reluctant Canadian tunneler (Rossif Sutherland, SyFy's Haven and The Expanse) to Trench 11 to see if it is the rumored laboratory and testing facility of "The Prophet" a.k.a. Herr Reiner (Robert Stadlober, Enemy at the Gates). When they arrive, they find a bunker surrounded by bodies and boarded up. The purpose is clear: not to keep others out, but to keep whatever is inside in. Even the horrors of the Western Front couldn't prepare them for what lies below.
The atmosphere and set design are adequate above ground and stellar below ground. It's claustrophobic and full of darkness that gives you just enough to keep the imagination spinning. The production value is believable on a reported $1.6 million dollar budget. I bought in almost immediately, despite the slow start, and would've had no difficulty in identifying the time and place (very important for a period piece, horror or not).
The SFX are first rate. The autopsy scene screams of a heavy influence of The Thing and is the crowning achievement of the physical effects. It's slimy, wormy, and utterly satisfying. Director Leo Scherman studied under the God of body horror, David Cronenberg, and it shows. He clearly paid attention while at the master's side. Every time practical effects were called for, they knocked it out of the park. The only marring scene was the CGI on the gunfight, though I admit that is probably more of a personal bias. I hate obvious CGI.
Rossif Sutherland (son of the legendary Donald Sutherland!!) straight up kills it as the shell-shocked tunnel rat, Berton. There's just something about his delivery that shows a deep pain, and his separation from his French love covers more ground in that regard. His eventual relationship with the surprisingly non-evil German, Herr Müller (Shaun Benson, SyFy's Channel Zero), is another high point that sets the tone for the theme to come shining through. Both men realize that there is blame to be laid all around, and it is time to do the right thing and kill the evil before it destroys everything. He says, "Maybe after what we've done we all deserve to be wiped out". It's hard to argue with the sentiment.
While the pacing is a bit slow to start, Trench 11 picks up steam with no delay in the second act and closes out strongly in the third. Solid performances, overall fantastic SFX, and a killer setting make for a movie that horror and war junkies alike need to see. Climb down into Trench 11 and see if you're bad enough to survive!
Video and Audio:
Presented in 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, Trench 11 looks quite sharp even in DVD format. The blacks are as deep and rich as you can realistically expect on something that isn't an HD or 4K transfer. Even on a simple sound bar, the sound design's subtle nuances and big pops do what they should in a movie where sound has a critical role in certain scenes.
There are no special features. The only options are scene selection and subtitles (English only).