Hellraiser in a trench, but not as unspeakably awful as that concept sounds.
War films are apparently the new black, and having exhausted the WW2 gusher, Deathwatch takes a bold step backwards into the mud-filled trenches of The War To End All Wars, which turned out to be the least apt name it could have been given. The film follows a group of British soldiers, Y-Company, as they spill out of their trenches on an ill-advised offensive on the German position. As the poison gas rolls over the battlefield, the surving members of the squad find a seemingly unoccupied network of German trenches, at least after the er, unbalanced Quinn (played almost worrying well by Andy Serkis, soon to be heard as the voice of Gollum in The Two Towers) disposes of the remnant of the German guards, being stopped from his kill frenzy in time to save the one remaining German. Among the legions of his fallen comrades he warns of the evil in this place and how their own men turned upon each other. After securing the area and digging in to wait for reinforcements, it soon becomes clear that something is not right here, as pointed out by Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell.
From thereon in, the film walks an at times unusual line between a psychological study of the effect the barbarism of war has on a man's mind, and the standard pre-Scream non ironic slasher tactics of divide and, well, divide. We would be disappointed, however, if people didn't wander off periodically to be killed. While no-one would be advised to view this film for it's intellectual content, as an example of a modern horror movie it shows enough originality and clever touches to be a reasonably entertaining diversion for its 94 minutes. The dialogue is at times stilted and clichéd, however no more so than heard in the trailer, so if you can survive that you should be alright. The acting is uniformly good to very good, with Jamie Bell making a reasonable job of bringing some life to what could be a very standard 'rookie' role, and Hugo Speer also bringing some goods to the 'battle-weary seargent' stereotype.
The sound and special effects are used effectively throughout the film, with nothing looking as obviously cheap as in, say, Dog Soldiers which has a similar feel to it but succeeds on many more levels. Some may say the real star of the film is the trench, which does well to enhance the mood of the film by encasing the characters in a claustrophobic, muddy, dark, ominous place. You're unlikely to leave the cinema feeling unsettled by this film, and there's not any particular message to take away from it. That said, as a way to while away an hour and a half having exhausted the current crop of new releases it works fairly well.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.
Hugo Speer (Sergeant Tate)
Andy Serkis (Pvt Quinn)
Laurence Fox (Captain Jennings)
James McAvoy (McNess)