Often the way to make a solid horror film for not a lot of money is to pick a contained location and focus on the intimate threat, a la Night of the Living Dead or Cube. The test is how big a picture can you paint from your isolated point of view? Trench 11 may be the biggest little horror movie you’ve ever seen set only in a tunnel.
In the Western Front of World War I in 1918, a team of Canadian soldiers (Rossif Sutherland, Shaun Benson, Ted Atherton and Charlie Carrick) tunnels under Trench 11 to find a secret German base. Once underground, they are trapped with the enemy’s deadliest creation.
Writer/director Leo Scherman builds up Trench 11 well with the previous soldiers fearing death less than reopening the tunnel. Once the soldiers, they witness the contagion Reiner (Robert Stadlober) developed, they have to keep it from spreading while still completing their mission. Between the claustrophobia, the outbreak and the enemy soldiers, these guys are fucked.
The virus is achieved with all practical effects, and they are some graphic and gory treats. It’s also astonishingly well made for a movie set in dark tunnels. The shaky light keeps everything that needs to be illuminated lit and everything that needs to remain hidden dark. Some random freeze frames are not a good look but that’s a few seconds out of 90 minutes.
What Scherman achieves is a bigger picture of World War I and the toll it takes on soldiers, all from underground with only a few individuals. Between the backstory of each character and the implicit war going on above the tunnels, Trench 11 does not feel like a movie shot in a box. It’s just we’re only seeing the tunnels within this bigger story.
Screamfest continues through October 17 in Hollywood.