Nazi zombies having been done to undeath in Outpost III: Rise of the Spetsnaz and Frankenstein’s Army among others, then revived as Scandi noir in Dead Snow and hidden underground in the forthcoming sequel to Iron Sky, Trench 11 instead burrows into the final days of the Great War rather than the Second World War, the western front of 1918, but it is still digging itself a hole.
Pushing forward towards victory, the allied forces of Britain, America and Canada are aware that the Germans have abandoned a labyrinthine underground complex behind the lines, their failed attempt to destroy it as they retreated from the encroaching assault leading experts to believe it may be a weapons facility manufacturing chemical or biological munitions.
An expedition is sent to investigate led by British Major Jennings (The Expanse‘s Ted Atherton), a man more focused on the success of his mission than how it will be achieved, six grim-faced men crossing no-man’s land where everything is a threat, among them Lieutenant Berton (Hellions‘ Rossif Sutherland), survivor of a previous tunnel collapse where his funeral service had been arranged before he dug himself out.
At the camp of the Fifth German Army far behind the front the officers know that the end is coming sooner rather than later, and Müller (ARQ‘s Shaun Benson) has been ordered to return and trigger the failed explosives job but his superior Reiner (Robert Stadlober) has other plans, hoping to reclaim the experiments and if necessary to release them into the wild to ensure the triumph of the Fatherland over its enemies, even if it is short lived.
The wooden joists creaking as the heavy earth shifts above, the shadows flickering in the torchlight and a blackness beyond in which lurks the unknown, directed by Leo Scherman from a script co-written with Matt Booi, in the dugouts and tunnels Trench 11 is not a film for the claustrophobic and should require little beyond the premise to sell the horror of the situation.
Yet despite the setting, the performances and the gloriously enthusiastic splatter of the practical effects, those trapped in Trench 11 cannot help but trawl through the muddy bootprints left behind by the armies who have paraded this way before, and while the highly infectious parasites are perhaps a new iteration it is still just another zombie film for all that.
The period precluding the requisite Nazi presence but instead offering Reiner as a frothing master-race narcissist who follows the teachings of Wotanism, Trench 11 lacks the honesty, scope and humanity of the two films it nominally combines, Westfront 1918 and Kameradschaft, with what should be the overwhelming central threat of the infection peripheral for whole passages, and while the whole is competent and adequate that alone is insufficient to command a decisive victory.
Trench 11 is currently playing the festival circuit