Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Deathwatch (2002)

Fear: 1
Gore: 2
Creepiness: 2
Entertainment: 3
Nightmares: 0

Generally speaking, horror movies fall into a few standard categories. There are films made simply to make money as there are always dopey teenagers willing to shell out money to see the latest installment of I Really Still Know What You Did Three Summers Ago or Final Destination 18. These films are cheap, formulaic and a fun way to pass some time with your girlfriend. There are also films made that aim to really just shock people or gross them out. Hostel, Nekromantic and the Saw films are like this. There are the social statements like Romero's films, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and 28 Days Later.

One of the most difficult kinds of horror to pull off is the kind that strives to be artistic. Deathwatch, despite it's dopey title and poster art has these sorts of aspirations and, for the most part, succeeds. Depending upon your temperament, or current mood, the open interpretation of what actually is going on with the story can be something fun to ponder or simply annoying.

Deathwatch centers around a small group of soldiers fighting in the trenches during World War I. During a nighttime attack, the soldiers are gassed and many die. The ones who are quick enough with their gas masks survive to find themselves wandering about a foggy landscape where the night has ended abruptly and far too soon. They soon run across a German post that seems to be completely abandoned save for 3 remaining enemy soldiers. Soon enough, however, they discover that the trenches of the post are littered with dead German soldiers who appear to have killed each other. Things get weird from that point on as the protagonists (including Jamie Bell who played Billy Elliot and Andy Serkis, best known as the Lord of the Ring's Golum) begin to realize that something is "wrong" with the trenches as nasty things begin to happen to them...or maybe they are just imagining them.

A British film released in 2002,there are a lot of similarities to Neil Marshall's excellent Dog Soldiers, but only on the surface. The movie is intentionally vague and makes no attempt to explain any of the strange goings on that begin to take place. Are there ghosts? Are they all going insane from the gas? Is the place "evil" as one of the captured enemy soldiers explains to them? Are they dead and in Purgatory? Director Michael Basset has made no attempt to step in and clear things up, instead preferring to leave the audience's interpretation of the film an open debate.

I enjoyed Deathwatch, though once was probably enough. The sets and photography are great, especially for a lower budget film. The war scenes are frightening and the use of CGI in some of the gore effects is controlled and tasteful. The acting and script are well done and there are some very creepy and genuinely gross moments. I also did not mind the vague nature of the story. And while I didn't lie awake that night pondering what was really going on (it's not THAT deep a film), I did come to my own conclusion which I am satisfied with. Maybe you will too.

- Complaint Dept.

1 comment:

the fucking beard said...

I actually loved this film, and saw it and Dog Soldiers around the same time some years back. Deathwatch works well as a war film as well as a horror film, in fact probably better. I thought that the CGI was poorly done at the end with some barbed wire that comes to life (a cool (although somewhat juvenile compared to the rest of the film) idea, but the execution was poorly done). Other than that though the atmosphere during the first three quarters was superb.