I have 500 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to maybe watch one thing for every five things I add, but now my library is full and I have to make room. Serious watching must begin. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking about you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but don’t have time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know if there’s something that’s been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for your queue and the next Monday for mine and so forth. Let’s do this.
What’s the movie? Deathwatch (2002)
What’s it rated? R for possibly including adult themes, adult activities, hard language, persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements. Most of those things don’t happen.
Did people make it? Written and Directed by Michael J. Bassett. Starring Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Kris Marshall, Laurence Fox, Roman Horak, Hugh O’ Conor, Torben Liebrecht, Hugo Speer and Matthew Rhys.
What’s it like in one sentence? Event Horizon in a trench during WW1.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and a handful of other European thespians play British soldiers crossing no man’s land near the enemy lines when a spirited shelling knocks them all unconscious. When they come to, they are surrounded by a thick, semeny fog that forces them into a massive network of trenches and tunnels. After discovering a couple of terrified Germans and piles upon piles of rotten, muddy corpses wrapped in barbed wire, the soldiers slowly start losing their minds and start fighting another war…for their very souls. Because the trench is evil. did I say that already?
Play or remove from my queue? Play them shits. It’s got it’s flaws but there’s enough awesome little touches to make it worth a recommendation. The characters all basically have one characteristic that defines them for the whole movie: Jamie Bell is a coward, Andy Serkis is batshit insane, Kris Marshall looks like a Weasley and so on and so forth. As the movie progresses, you see the characters using their defining personality traits to do battle with the evil they come across in the trench. Some of it is fairly predictable, but it’s all acted and shot so interestingly that a lot can be forgiven.
There are three things this movie has going for it that make it worth the recommendation. First is Andy Serkis’ performance. He truly feels dangerous as Pvt. Thomas Quinn, a violent man who kills because he loves it, not because it’s his job. If he weren’t fighting in the war, I have a feeling he’d be a serial killer back home or, at the very least, he would kick puppies and punch a few babies. Serkis has an intensity to him in everything he does, but in this he feels a little more dangerous than normal. It’s primal and palpable and when he finds a giant club with massive, jagged bolts around the tip, you know shit is about to turn to fuck.
Secondly, the atmosphere and the production design are fantastic. The trench the soldiers find themselves in is caked with some of the thickest, brownest, nastiest mud you could ever imagine outside of Bruce Vilanche’s impacted colon. Director Michael J. Bassett uses some pretty great in-camera trickery to make the mud feel like a sentient presence and serves to keep the tone hallucinatory and hauntingly intense for a large chunk of the film’s running time. Between that and the fog and the period costuming, you truly feel like you’re stuck in the trench with these poor bastards, waiting for some mud corpse wrapped in barbed wire to break your neck and fuck your sockets.
Thirdishly is the direction. There are images in this film that I will never forget (not in a 9\11 way, but in at least a “oooh, that was nifty” sort of way. Michael J. Bassett, on what had to be a minuscule budget, does an excellent job inferring a much bigger scope than this film was ever able to actually show. Bassett also directed Wilderness, Solomon Kane and the upcoming 3D Silent Hill sequel. I haven’t seen any of them yet but i want to. Wilderness is streaming but Solomon Kane isn’t even available to order a disc of or anything, so I’m not sure what’s going on there. Bassett was born to direct a Silent Hill movie with all of his barbed wire fetishism, so count me in for that one as well, especially if there’s some Sean Bean action in it (did you see him in the Red Riding Trilogy? Amazing! Game of Thrones will rule us all,)
Combining the skilled film making with some truly inspired casting makes for a really nice little B horror flick. There’s also some excellent thematic work dealing with the realities of war and man’s responsibilities to humanity that I’ll let some smarter fucker get into in the comments. Yeah, there’s a few shitty effects and it sags in the middle for a bit, but the excellent ensemble combined with a pitch perfect ending makes for an awfully entertaining use of your internet connection. And however much money you’re paying for Netflix.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Do I ever. In Japan this movie was called Death Front. I had imagined it would be called something like Super Fun Evil Mud Battle for Supremacy of Go! so, I guess Death Front is better, but still awfully vague. The front of what?
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Below (sure), Following (ummmm), Paranormal Activity (what?) Billy Eilliot (Jamie Bell doesn’t dance in this) and Defiance (wrong war, assholes).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Below, Event Horizon, Death Tunnel, Jacob’s Ladder and F.X.2 The Deadly Art of Illusion (one of these things is not like the other…).
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 2.9 out of 5.0.
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 3.3 out of 5.0.
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? It’s a solid little thriller. Just like that aunt you think about some nights.
Next week? Alright, it’s time for you guys to pick the movie. Anything you wanna watch but would rather someone else took the bullet first before spending your valuable time. My time has no value. The first person who picks something in the comments gets their movie watched. Keep leaving comments, though, and I’ll get to all of them eventually. I’d like to pick next weeks movie by sometime today and let everyone know, so that way anyone interested can watch it too and we can compare notes next week. Until then.