Film / Deathwatch (2002)

British war horror movie made in 2002. It was the directorial debut of Michael J. Bassett, who later went on to direct the movie Solomon Kane.

Set during World War I, a group of British soldiers "go over the top" in an assault against German lines. However, in the middle of the battle, a mysterious fog descends upon the battlefield and the night suddenly turns into day. Hours later, they finally stumble upon the German trenches only to find a mere 3 German soldiers, petrified and pointing their guns down their own trenches. The British soldiers call for them to surrender, but the Germans are more scared of something in the trench than them. After murdering two of them and torturing the third, the British troops begin exploring the trench, only to find the bodies of more Germans, seemingly killed by friendly fire. Even stranger, the trenches seem to lead nowhere, simply doubling back on themselves. With a prisoner babbling about demons, impenetrable fog, and a broken radio, they quickly form a defensive position and wait for reinforcements that never come.

Though their radio can't send messages, it can still receive them. High command seems rather sure that the attack failed and there were no survivors....

Needless to say, things go downhill from there.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Not very overt, but there are some inconsistencies, especially with the weapons. The Lee-Enfield rifles wielded by the soldiers are WWII-era variants of the rifle (the WWI rifle being harder to come by at this time). But the most obvious example by far is the surprisingly small radio receiver they find and repair. No country had military or civilian radios that small and advanced during WWI. It would fit better in the 1920s. In addition, most of the German rifles are actually WWII-era Kar98k's, instead of the Gewehr 98s they should have been using.
  • Daylight Horror: Most of the movie, but the night scenes are almost equally long as the day ones and the daylight itself is consistently gloomy.
  • Eldritch Location: Wherever the squad have gone, it's taken a match to the rule book of physics and flips off such a thing as night and day, changing from one to the other and back unpredictably and quickly.
  • Fog of Doom: Hey, it's World War I. Fog of Doom is already all over the damn place.
  • Foreshadowing: Connected to the Fog of Doom above. The protagonists were fighting off the Germans from their trench in the middle of the night, but got knocked out and awoke in a somewhat different location, surrounded completely by thick fog. And the night suddenly changed to day time. One or two of the characters even lampshade the unusualness of this.
  • Karmic Death: Most of the cast, who are each shown to be morally flawed (or just unlucky) in some way, are shown to get their comeuppance in various gruesome ways. Especially Quinn. *shudder*
  • Last-Name Basis: A subversion, since in the script and credits, the characters are mentioned by their full names. But the only personal name used on screen regularly is Charlie's.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Despite blowing up the approaches to their trench to limit the space they have to defend, the squad never seem to be within sight, earshot, or running distance of each other when anything happens, and stationary, presumably vulnerable characters like Chevasse and the prisoner go unguarded and unmentioned for long stretches of the film. Unsurprisingly, this results in a Dwindling Party.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The whole haunting and supernatural phenomenna going on in the abandoned trench. Including living barbed-wire.
  • Mercy Kill: Charlie does this to Chevasse after he discovers rats are eating his legs.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The earlier portions of the movie, before the squad members start getting killed off in mysterious ways by unknown forces or themselves under suspicious coincidences.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Averted by Jennings and Tate, both of them enormous JerkAsses. This trope is also double subverted by Tate, since he's oficially a sergeant and acts pretty jerky, but shows some signs of being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Quinn most of the time. By the end of the movie, Bradford has an even creepier smile on his face when threatening Charlie.