There is something about German soldiers and horror films that go so devilishly good together. Movies such as Dead Snow, Frankenstein’s Army and The Keep took the already accepted evil of the German Army tactics and threw in some additional genre elements to scare and entertain the hell out of us.
The latest such example is Leo Scherman’s Trench 11. Trench 11 begins with the introduction of a group of allied soldiers totaling six who set out on a mission to enter a (hopefully) vacant German trench in search of information regarding a biological weapon German scientists were engineering. The six military men are a mixed bag of international soldiers which include men from the United Kingdom, America and a tunnel expert from Canada. There is a spattering of information which help flush out the characters but it’s only Rossif Sutherland’s Berton (the Canadian tunnel rat), that gets a backstory befitting of deep audience connection.
The six men travel deep into the trench where they find their first German soldier who pleads that a sealed door remain barricaded and then begs for his own death when it becomes clear the mission is to proceed beyond the door. What lies behind the door propels the remainder of the film. We soon learn that there is a scientifically generated disease which was tested on German soldiers beyond the barricade. And the plot only thickens when an additional group of German soldiers enter the trench in hopes of its retrieval. Thus conflict between two opposing groups – one that wants to destroy the virus and the other that wants to preserve it.
The best way to experience genre films is to let them play out without much pre-collected information. And it was likely our lack of knowledge regarding the film in general that had us so involved in the character’s fate(s). There are double crosses and alliances built out of a common enemy. All of which we relished as we bathed in the high entertainment value of the effort. Characters do perish, but none in expected fashion. And the weapon itself was both terrifying in its simplicity and effectively original.
Trench 11 played at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival as part of a 19-film schedule where we heralded it as the Best of the Fest. We thought it to be casually imaginative and expertly crafted with a full commitment from cast and crew combined.
We toss the term ‘hidden gem’ around unabated too often but when it comes to Trench 11, the suggestion cannot be understated. Trench 11 was one of the few genre films we have screened in recent memory to which we didn’t want the fun to end. It is also one of the best films ever to be showcased in the 12 year history of the Toronto After Dark Festival.