The horror genre has a long, rich history of using Nazis as monsters. From Isla, She-Wolf of the SS to more recent entries like Dead Snow and Frankenstein’s Army, the Nazis have offered the genre some good villains for reasons that shouldn’t need further explanation. Later this fall, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions is releasing its heavily-promoted Nazi-zombie film, Overlord. In the meantime, Nazi-zombie film fans can whet their appetite with Raven Banner’s Trench 11.
Set in the dying days of World War I, a small Allied unit is tasked with exploring an abandoned Nazi research facility. Lt. Benson, a Canadian solider and tunneller, serves as the unit’s guide despite clearly suffering the effects of his last mission. As the Allies descend a 100 feet below the ground, they discover the remnants of a horrific experiment that may not be dormant.
Trench 11 Suffers From Pacing Problems
Trench 11 is a low-budget effort, but director Leo Scherman mostly succeeds in masking this short-coming. By and large, Scherman’s World War I-zombie flick looks good on the screen. Where the film clearly suffers from budgetary constraints is pacing. With only so much money to go around for special effects, Trench 11 is a little light on the zombie action. Though a few good horror scenes are interspersed through the movie’s first 45 minutes, Trench 11 is a pretty talky film in the early going.
Aside from a lack of real scares, Trench 11 also fails to establish or escalate any tension. As a result, the movie grinds to a halt too often over its 90-minute run-time.
A lack of constant action is, in and of itself, not a problem. Unfortunately, Scherman and Matt Booi’s screenplay does not offer much else to keep you engaged. None of the characters are particularly charismatic or interesting. In fact, audiences might be excused for confusing characters or failing to remember names. Aside from a lack of real scares, Trench 11 also fails to establish or escalate any tension. As a result, the movie grinds to a halt too often over its 90-minute run-time.
A Few Good Gore Effects Offset Pacing Issues
Thankfully, Trench 11’s special effects team puts the limited budget to good use. While there are only a few zombie attacks in the film, Trench 11 does not disappoint when opportunities for gore are presented. In one scene, a character has his head blown off while another character has his nose mangled by an infected solider. Each of these moments is well served by the film’s make-up effects, never appearing cheap or laughable.
Yet there are just too few of these moments to enjoy. I found myself waiting for Trench 11 to explode into action, particularly as the story built to its climax. Even with a low budget I’m not sure why more effort could not have been put forth to make the handful of ‘infected’ look, well, infected. Scherman doesn’t even take much advantage of the movie’s claustrophobic setting. Little to no suspense is gleaned from the movie’s underground tunnels, which seems like a huge oversight.
Bland Performances and a Lack of Scares
None of the performances in Trench 11 can or should be classified as poor. To the contrary, like the rest of the movie, the cast is capable and competent. Nevertheless, there is no single performance that rises above being blandly acceptable. If there’s a weak link it’s Rossif Sutherland as the reluctant Lt. Benson. Sutherland neither looks the part nor delivers any of the requisite charisma or pathos one would expect from the role.
Ultimately, where Trench 11 really fails is that it just lacks scares and atmosphere. I would have even taken a clumsily staged jump scare here and there just to inject some life into the proceedings. If there was a music score, it made no impression in the 90 minutes or so of the movie. As the story plunged into its finale, a definite sense of frustration emerged with a story that had so much potential but just couldn’t hit any of the right notes.
Trench 11 Will Remind of You Better Movies
In spite of a promising premise and competent film-making, Trench 11 can’t escape its low budget and lackluster screenplay. While it’s certainly far from being a bad movie, it largely works as a reminder of better films that have explored similar concepts and themes. No one moment is likely to stick out five minutes or more after the film has ended. If you’re a fan of WWI or WWII horror-themed films, it looks like you’ll have to wait for Overlord to hit cineplexes in order to get your fix.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C+