Directed by Michael J Bassett, starring Jamie Bell, Hugo Speer, Matthew Rhys, Andy Serkis, Laurence Fox, Dean Lennox Kelly, Hugh O'Conor, Hans Matheson, Kris Marshall, Ruaidhri Conroy.
What could be more frightening than clambering out of your First World War trench to face near certain death, cannon-fodder in the futile battle to move two inches closer to Berlin? Certainly not this supernatural horror set on the Western Front in 1917.
Rather than focussing on the battlefield, 'Deathwatch' follows a platoon of British soldiers who stumble upon a German trench. They find some German soldiers babbling incoherently, who would seemingly prefer to be shot rather than face what lurks within the trench. Ignoring this, the stranded troops set up camp, only to discover the hard way that this initially unseen entity will drive them apart and ultimately destroy them.
Billy Elliot's Jamie Bell plays 'Private Charlie Shakespeare', a 16-year-old innocent who emerges as the film's conscience amid the men's descent into madness. Unfortunately, Bell fails to handle the leap from ballet to bullets, with a performance which rarely stretches beyond blank incomprehension.
The characters are one-dimensional archetypes, albeit sporting some surprisingly modern haircuts: the wide-eyed boy soldier (Bell), the brave sergeant (Speer), the Neanderthal psycho (Serkis), the upper-class twit officer (Fox) and the, erm, doctor (Rhys). This is fine - as it is a genre horror movie - but the mostly strong cast is let down by a poor script which fails to establish any real camaraderie among the men, and it is hard to feel sympathy as one-by-one, they meet their gory fates.
First-time director Bassett (who also wrote the script) never manages to convey any sort of mounting tension or menace. The trench is supposed to be labyrinthine, but it just looks like the same stretch of mud, meaning that much of the action is tediously repetitive. He doesn't even find any ingenious or cool ways to kill off his characters.
Maybe the world doesn't need another movie about the horrors of war, but it would still be preferable to this boring, un-scary horror flick.