FEBRUARY 6, 2011
I dug Deathwatch. It wasn’t particularly original, and I somehow even managed to guess that it would have a vague ending that left it up to the viewer to decide the true nature of its horror elements, but I enjoyed my time watching it, had fun trying to figure out who would die and when, and didn’t get bored. All I can ask for anymore, really – tomorrow makes exactly four years of doing this. That’s over 1500 horror movies; I can’t really fault a movie for not blowing me away.
I WAS blown away by the opening titles though. Well, maybe blown away is exaggerating, but they were A+ cool all the same. See, one issue inherent in a lot of war movies is that it’s hard to tell some of the characters apart, as they tend to be cast with fresh-faced unknowns (I only recognized two actors in the film – Andy Serkis and Jamie Bell, faring much better here than King Kong, where they ‘reunited’). But the editor (and/or Wilderness director Michael J. Bassett, who made his debut here) had the genius idea to put each cast member’s name over a shot of their character, which helped differentiate them right off the bat. In fact these were the only opening titles beyond a few production companies and the film’s title, so I’m guessing that this was a choice specifically made to combat that problem.
Another cool thing was the variety of the kill scenes (spoilers, duh). Some get shot, some get tangled up in barbed wire, one gets a mace to the head, and one dude is engulfed with a blood tornado of sorts. In fact, my overexposure to movies actually made it a bit more fun – you are to expect that there’s some sort of supernatural force at play here, but I’ve seen enough movies where it’s just a psychological break to accept that too easily. It wasn’t until near the end of the film (when barbed wire literally started coming to life and wrapping itself around the guys on its own) that I knew it wasn’t just “they all snapped”. Also, there is the possibility that they are all dead already and this is some sort of purgatory, which I was tipped off to quite early (they radio for help and the guy on the other end says “that company is dead!” or something to that effect – it’s played as an “oh shit, no one’s going to rescue us” moment, but I’ve seen movies where that’s actually the truth). So again I got to enjoy playing the guessing game.
However, as I had predicted, it’s a movie where they don’t really come right out and say what happened, so I’m left only with my theory (all dead, French dude is a sort of “judge” in purgatory), not the satisfaction of knowing I was right (or the further satisfaction at being wrong and having a good reason to watch the movie again). Which makes me wish that I watched the movie a lot sooner, because that’s the type of thing that’s fun to talk about with friends, but 8-9 years later, folks have moved on to more exciting matters, like who Joseph Gordon-Levitt is playing in Batman 3.
There are two moments of incredible awesome in this movie; one horror based, one just kind of scary in an action movie way. The latter would be when a soldier is walking through the trenches (the movie takes place during WWI), securing the area, when he senses someone is there. Suddenly, we see what’s up – the enemy has caked himself into the mud (like Rambo II), and then there’s a tense game of chicken as each man is aware of the other but seemingly doesn’t know if the other guys KNOWS he is aware of him. Sweet. And then later in the movie, there’s a big pile of bodies, which is already kind of disturbing, but then the pile begins to sort of contract and deflate, much to the panic of Bell, our hero who reminded me more than a little of Jeremy Davies’ character in Saving Private Ryan (right down to letting a guy go only to regret it later).
Speaking of the war, I wouldn’t have minded a little more background as to who they were, where they were fighting, what battle it was, etc. WWI hasn’t been covered much in movies period, let alone in horror films, so contextualizing it a bit would have been fine by me. Also, for better or worse, there’s not a lot of characterization amongst the men; the lone “I have a girl back home...” scene turns out to be a joke that requires incorrect spelling (a guy talks about his girl back in NORWICH – (k)Nickers Off, Ready When I Come Home). Especially in a movie where pretty much everyone dies anyway, it’s not like they had to worry about it being a “oh this guy’s obviously going to die” moment like in pretty much every other war movie.
Anyway, good stuff. Fans of Below will dig it, I think, as well as Outpost. There’s even a bit of The Keep in there for good measure. It’s funny though – the war/horror genre is sparsely populated, but they all seem to deal with similar subject matter. How about a slasher set in the aftermath of D-Day, or maybe some of our guys have to team up with the Vietcong against a rampaging monster? Civil War Vampire, perhaps? Think outside the box a bit, folks!
What say you?