I know, I sing the praises of Michael Bassett constantly. I was a huge fan of his last film “Wilderness” and I’m looking forward to when Solomon Kane reaches our shores. But his first film “Deathwatch” was what kicked off my fanboy geekdom. It’s an eerie film, and a film that squeezed every last penny out of its modest budget to produce something that seems so much bigger than it actually is. Incredibly imaginative, this film takes the atmospheric elements of a haunted house story and smashes them against the ‘Jonny Got His Gun’ terrors of war.
Set on the western front during World War I, a group of British soldiers become detached from their group during a gas attack. Disoriented, they wander aimlessly through the fog and stumble upon a series of abandoned German trenches. Believing they can secure the area, they set about searching the complex network of trenches only to discover bodies (cocooned in barbed wire) and a lone German survivor. While its clear that the Germans who had occupied this trench have gone mad and killed each other, why and how still remain a mystery. Are they alone, or is something else with them?
I think that Bassett’s strength in storytelling is his ability to illustrate male characters, typically young, devolving into brutish behavior when faced with any type of confrontation. The violence in this film is stiff — that is to say you can expect to see things like a club stuck with nails being swung into another man’s flesh. But as a “nuts-and-bolts” kind of guy there were little things I enjoyed that worked to his second strength as a director, which is setting a gritty tone and building on it without committing suicide in the third act. The abundance of rats, mud, razor wire, and dead bodies set inside this very claustrophobic trench plays wonderfully in creating an atmosphere that becomes more and more horrifying as all these little elements come to life. And did I mention the were barbed wire cocoon bodies?
The film has been playing on On Demand off and on for a while, but I would definetely check it out if you get a chance to buy or rent. Its an easy view – quick pace and a lot of visual eye candy for those of you with short attention spans. It’ll rip your face off.