Deathwatch (2002) — World War I with a side helping of extra horror

“I’m a sergeant, I work for a living.”

Justin’s rating: This film needs a heavy dose of bleach, Fantastik and Brawny paper towels to clean up that filth!

Justin’s review: I’ll give this much for the premise of Deathwatch: It’s definitely off the beaten path for horror movie settings.

It’s actually why I picked this DVD up in the first place — the cover, featuring a World War I battlescape and a not-scary-but-trying skull face in the background nabbed my interest. Unlike WWII, Great War movies are in scarce supply; it was a confusing war and we remember little if anything from our high school history textbooks. We remember trenches and a German guy with a pointy hat. That’s about it. And a horror flick on the battlefield… redundant, yes, but intriguing.

It turns out that Deathwatch’s setting bears the full burden for getting us through the movie. The rest is codswallop, a mushy mix of two of horror’s most tried-and-true conflicts: a haunted house and a group of people who end up turning on each other. Plus, a lot of mud. A lot. Of mud. And (muddy) rats.

After an attack on an enemy line, a group of nine British soldiers are overcome by fog and find themselves at the precipice of an unknown massive German trench system. Well, we take their word for it that it’s massive — it all looks the same, and for all I know, the director could’ve ordered only one passageway and one corner to be built, and shot the movie around that. In any case, the soldiers kill or take capture the few terrified Germans there, never questioning why the Germans are barricaded inside of their trenches and rather unconcerned about a British incursion. Can you say “supernatural threat” with me, boys and girls?

Instead of leaving, the Brits occupy the trenches and kiss little lockets of their loved ones all sentimental-like. Thus begins a rather long drudge through a movie that at times smells reminiscent of Event Horizon, except everyone’s very muddy and the director seems unconcerned with tightening his scenes and giving us a clear idea of what’s going on. After a while I sort of lost interest, because the movie wasn’t showing any in keeping mine, and I only snapped back when the final ten minutes arrived.

I honestly can’t recall much of the main plot, for it’s mostly soldiers hearing weird noises and getting upset with each other for no reason. There are some nifty barbed wire zombies, and Andy Serkis is there to keep us entertained with a patented psycho act.

In short: good premise, squandered on badness. Toodles.

One comment

  1. I prefer the explanation for World War 1 given in Blackadder Goes Forth.

    Private Baldrick: The way I see it, these days there’s a war on, right? +, ages ago, there wasn’t a war on, right? So, there must have been a moment when there not being a war on went away, right? + there being a war on came along. So, what I want to know is: How did we get from the one case of affairs to the other case of affairs?

    Captain Blackadder: Do you mean “How did the war start?”

    Lieutenant George: The war started because of the vile Hun + his villainous empire-building.

    Captain Blackadder: George, the British Empire at present covers a quarter of the globe, while the German Empire consists of a small sausage factory in Tanganiki. I hardly think that we can be entirely absolved of blame on the imperialistic front.

    Lieutenant George: Oh, no, sir, absolutely not. [aside, to Baldrick] Mad as a bicycle!

    Private Baldrick: I heard that it started when a bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich ’cause he was hungry.

    Captain Blackadder: I think you mean it started when the Archduke of Austro-Hungary got shot.

    Private Baldrick: Nah, there was definitely an ostrich involved, sir.

    Captain Blackadder: Well, possibly. But the real reason for the whole thing was that it was too much effort not to have a war.

    Lieutenant George: By Gum, this is interesting. I always loved history. The Battle of Hastings, Henry VIII and his six knives, all that.

    Captain Blackadder: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs developed: us, the French + the Russians on one side, + the Germans + Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other’s deterrent. That way there could never be a war.

    Private Baldrick: But, this is a sort of a war, isn’t it, sir?

    Captain Blackadder: Yes, that’s right. You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.

    Private Baldrick: What was that, sir?

    Captain Blackadder: It was bollocks.

    Private Baldrick: So the poor old ostrich died for nothing then.

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