Monday, January 31, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Deathwatch (2002)

Deathwatch is an interesting take on the psychological horror genre. I won't say that this is the psychological horror film to end all psychological horror films, nor will I say that it's better than a ton of the mainstays of the genre like Jacob's Ladder, 1408, and Sauna, but I will say that this is a good film for satisfying a bit of a psychological horror junkie.

The film takes place in World War I in the trenches and follows around soldiers from Great Britain as they fight their way through the Germans. The movie has an interesting cold opening followed by a very different kind of set piece altogether. You might think that this is a film about war, and to a point you would be correct, but this is a film about war like Sauna and The Objective are movies about war. There's no real war that we see on screen, rather most of the movie shows us imagery of war and the horrors one could see, from madness, to losing limbs, to forgetting God, to being shellshocked, and others. I feel that this movie shows a decent psychological approach to war, especially World War I and its trench warfare and lack of good medicine.

The barbed wire imagery is especially telling, and I feel it makes this movie even better. I'm not going to praise this movie up and down. There's a lot wrong here even if some of it is done pretty well. The acting is decent, but some of the actors are better than others. Andy Serkis really stands out in his part, blowing away the other actors in this by a long shot. The CGI stuff (I suspect it's CGI at least.) looks pretty fake, but then again this is a 2002 movie, and I guess I can forgive it a bit, since it alternates between looking really good and looking pretty bad. The fog effects are sometimes very good and other times pretty awful.

There are gore effects well, and I do understand why they're there, but I also think some of it was completely gratuitous. I feel that the filmmakers really shied away from very visceral imagery, but at the same time seemed to revel in gore, which makes absolutely no sense if you haven't seen the film. I almost feel like they showed us the wrong scenes as gory save one towards the end that I felt was especially justified to show. Most of the gory scenes felt tacked on and needless where a lot of the scenes that should have had gore shown in them really did shy away from the gore. It really made no sense to me, especially in a horror movie like this.

The cinematography is decent, but not amazing. This is not a masterful psychological horror movie, just an interesting and decent one. Most of the scares come early on in the movie as does most of the atmosphere. By later on the movie really kind of loses all suspense and becomes a glorified slasher film which really took a lot away from this film. It was too predictable, too easy to figure out. There were no interesting twists or turns, no huge revelation, no interesting plot. If you've seen any given psychological horror movie, you've seen this one. The thing going for this one is that it's different. The characters are interesting, it takes place during World War I, and it has a lot of war imagery when most psychological horror doesn't. That's not necessarily a huge plus in my mind, but I do think this movie really does work decently and was kind of enjoyable if not even close to the best film of its genre.

There's not much more I can really say. The ending was silly, the story moved slowly despite being a short film, and I never really felt engaged with anything besides Andy Serkis who was playing, like always, a crazy person.

Man, if I could I would just make a movie about Andy Serkis flipping out. I could watch that guy flip out all day. The best parts of the movie for me were him flipping out at people. I can't stress that enough. If you have some kind of deep Andy Serkis flipping out fetish, this is the movie for you, otherwise just go watch Jacob's Ladder since it's a better war-driven psychological horror movie by far.


  1. There are two reasons to watch this film:

    1. The set design and

    2. Andy Serkis.

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