In the dying days of World War One, deep behind enemy lines in the wintry Ardennes Forest, British Military Intelligence have discovered an intricate underground bunker complex abandoned by the Germans. 

Believing it to be the site of experimentation in chemical and biological weapons, the Allies shanghai PTSD-suffering Canadian tunneller Berton (Rossif Sutherland) to guide a team of stiff upper lip British officers and coke-addled American grunts into the bowels of the base to investigate before the Kaiser’s forces destroy any potential evidence during their retreat.

Deep beneath the earth, the team are about to discover a terrifying secret…

If when watching Death Trench you feel like you’re suffering from déjà vu again, that you have seen it all before, worry not, you have. Swapping the Great War for the usual WW2 scenario, low-budget Canadian horror flick Death Trench is yet another men-on-a-mission movie where a mismatched team of heroes venture into an underground warren of dark tunnels and encounter a supernatural threat unleashed by a mad scientist, in this case eschewing the relentless zombies of the Outpost movies or the recent Overlord in favour of parasitical worms that turn infected soldiers into homicidal maniacs.

Lighter on action and gore than you might expect for your average zombie German soldier movie, co-writers Leo Scherman and Matt Booi’s script focuses more on building tension and getting to know their characters, particularly traumatised reluctant hero Berton, Rossif Sutherland’s press ganged tunneller a relatable everyman who just wants to be left in peace, while even relatively minor characters like Jeff Strome’s coked-up alpha male American soldier or Shaun Benson’s honourable Prussian officer are given enough shading to make you care about them before Scherman turns loose the slavering infected. Robert Stadlober’s mad scientist Dr Reiner is pure panto however; a gleefully evil proto-Nazi who experiments on his own troops and listens to Mahler as he tortures captured Allies.

Scherman makes the most of his meagre budget and, while one dark tunnel looks much like the next, the distant sounds of chaos – howls, screams, gunshots – coming closer adds to the claustrophobic dread and it’s refreshing that when the infected do finally attack, they’re not the mindless, unstoppable automatons we’re familiar with from the Nazi Zombie subgenre but recognisably human monsters and, stomach-churning autopsy scene aside, Scherman’s deployment of effects is spare and modest, the limited lighting enhancing the threat.

Tight, tense and exciting, Death Trench is a far more straight-faced horror/war movie than it’s title suggests.       

DVD Review: Death Trench
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