For the US Premiere of the historical horror film, TRENCH 11, at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival, Shannon had the chance to speak with director/co-writer Leo Scherman about his latest film, the influence of David Cronenberg, and the use of practical effects.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Leo, thank you so much for speaking with me today! First and foremost, for those who are not familiar with TRENCH 11 can you tell us a little bit about it?
Leo Scherman: TRENCH 11 is a WW1 set thriller-horror. It’s a men-on-a-mission situation that turns dark and horrific once the Allied team descends 100 feet below ground into a hidden German base. From that point on it’s a tense and violent ride until the end.
NC: What was it like to co-write the script with Matt Booi and what inspired you both to want to write a film such as this?
LS: Matt Booi is a great writer and a great friend. We worked together for many years on this script. Matt did so much heavy lifting and I’m truly grateful.
The inspiration was: war is hell. And WW1 was arguably the most hellish of them all. The period has always struck me as an appropriate setting for a dark and horrific film. It’s as though a violent contagion spread across Europe during WW1 with country after country becoming infected and turning on each other. We developed our plot with that in mind.
NC: Clearly this film relies heavily on historical moments, specifically that of WW1. What type of research did you and Matt do to make this film as authentic as possible?
LS: Matt is a bit of a WW1 expert and specifically about the underground war fought beneath the trenches. Matt worked on a British documentary with one of the world’s authorities on the subject matter – Peter Barton – and they descended into the remains of the underground tunnels in Europe. So all of the historical moments in TRENCH 11were details that Matt brought to the table and I think really enhanced the experience.
NC: I’m pretty squeamish so there were definitely some times when I had to look away during the film; however, I have to hand it to you all for your use of practical effects. How did you go about achieving a lot of the more body-horror aspects of the film?
LS: I prefer the look and feel of practical FX and from the very start I wanted to use them. The real challenge was finding the right FX artist who could deliver what I was after. Francois Dagenais is the best guy in Canada and one of the finest in the world. His work on the horror series “Hannibal” was just sensational. Francois and I both agreed that we wanted to use an old school approach in the tradition of masters like Rob Bottin and Rick Baker. Francois and his team really dug deep and delivered in a big way.
NC: Speaking of body horror, were you influenced at all by David Cronenberg or films like THE THING?
LS: I am deeply indebted to both those references. As a Canadian genre filmmaker David Cronenberg is the king and has been a role model and mentor for years. And THE THING is one of the greatest horror films ever made – full stop. Carpenter is a master.
NC: Last, but certainly not least, are there any other projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eye out for?
LS: Nothing official yet, but Matt and I are working on two new films. Both are historical settings – one a thriller, the other a serial killer horror.