A small group of English soldiers find themselves in a labyrinth of abandoned German trenches in Deathwatch
, a reworking of the classic British supernatural horror tale as a redemptive allegory amid the wider horror of the Great War. The very earth has had its fill of blood and this lost company may already be in hell: imagine the BBC TV film All the Kings Men
(1999) crossed with Cube
(1997), as realised by a young Ridley Scott. Only Charlie Shakespeare, an impressive Jamie Bell, is sufficiently innocent to realise the evil of the trenches is turning comrade against comrade, resulting in the gradually escalating carnage.
Director Michael J Bassett effectively wracks the tension, aided greatly by a wonderfully decayed set design and story, which may meander, but builds to a chillingly surreal finale. Bell is given strong support from Matthew Rhys and a psychotic Andy Serkis, while Bassett has a fine eye for lighting and composition, as well as the ability to deliver some horrifically effective set-pieces. Taking itself much more seriously than its comparable contemporary, Dog Soldiers (2002), Deathwatch was shamefully overlooked in the cinemas but is surely a future cult classic just awaiting discovery.
On the DVD:Deathwatch is presented anamorphically enhanced at 2.35-1, and bar some compression artifacting in a few scenes looks fine. Likewise the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is both atmospheric and powerful. The feature includes optional subtitles for hard of hearing. Extras begin with 15 minutes of interviews with six main cast members and Michael J Bassett. Also included are 14 minutes of filming footage and 16 minutes of alternate/extended/deleted scenes with text explanations as to why the material was changed or cut. There are three commentaries, with writer/director Bassett giving a serious account of realising his debut feature, then joining Jamie Bell and Lawrence Fox on a second commentary for more light hearted reflections. Finally Andy Serkis demonstrates his commitment to the project with an enjoyable reminiscence of his own. --Gary S Dalkin
Set during the First World War, this is the story of nine British soldiers who evade capture by hiding themselves in a network of enemy trenches. But what they find there fills them with terror...