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Trench 11 takes the horror of the First World War deep underground

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Directed by Leo Scherman, Trench 11 is a WWI-era horror that follows a group of Allied soldiers who find a secret German base hidden 100 feet underground. Photo courtesy Raven Banner Releasing
Directed by Leo Scherman, Trench 11 is a WWI-era horror that follows a group of Allied soldiers who find a secret German base hidden 100 feet underground. Photo courtesy Raven Banner Releasing

“(My co-writer Matt Booi), he had this amazing experience working on a documentary about the underground war that happened in the tunnels (during World War I). He said that might be an interesting setting. I was like, ‘That’s a crazy awesome setting.’ That was the pitch, there was nothing more than that.”

Trench 11’s director, Leo Scherman (Cock’d Gunns), had long been hoping to make a historically accurate World War I drama. Working on a project nearly seven years ago with Booi, Scherman mentioned his idea of doing a sort of Led Zeppelin-infused version of the First World War. Booi countered with the idea of a version inspired by The Clash. Both of them understood immediately what that film might look like.

In Trench 11, a group of Allied soldiers descend deep underground to discover a hidden German base full of dark secrets and surprises. Some refer to the film as a horror set during World War I while others consider it a war film with horror elements, but Scherman said specific genre conventions became largely unimportant to him as he became more invested in the characters.

“It is both and to be perfectly honest I did find it a bit challenging. But I think, oddly enough, it was starting to slide more to a non-horror story for me once I got engaged in the characters,” he said. “But I always just figured that we’re at a place now with film, culture, music where it is just a bit of both.”

On the horror side, Scherman said Trench 11’s aesthetic was one typically not found in World War I films.

“I felt that World War I has not been given as much of a rock and roll treatment, in North America anyway, as World War II and Vietnam,” he said. “You can think of so many other war films that have already gone down that slightly tweaked-out, alt-history, punk rock kind of vibe.”

The horror of Trench 11 emerges when the soldiers, including Canadian tunneler Berton (Rossif Sutherland), discover disturbing German experiments that have progressed out of control. That terror is based on the real history of the experimentation conducted by the German army focused on germ and chemical warfare, but also on the base inhumanity of war itself.

“War makes no sense, when you get down to it, when you get past the bravado and the patriotism,” Scherman said. “Every war is a bit different, obviously World War II you’ve kind of got Darth Vader, (that sense of), ‘We better go deal with the evil empire.’

“But World War I, when you get into wars and everybody is dying and everybody has blood on their hands, it’s just horrible. To me, it’s a living hell. So it’s the most horrific thing in my mind. I’m not scared of ghosts, but the idea of going to war and fighting in the trenches with disease, I can’t think of anything more scary.”

Trench 11 director Leo Scherman said he did extensive research into the horrific nature of germ and chemical warfare while writing the script for the film. Photo courtesy Raven Banner Releasing

Trench 11 director Leo Scherman said he did extensive research into the horrific nature of germ and chemical warfare while writing the script for the film. Photo courtesy Raven Banner Releasing

Shot in Winnipeg, Trench 11 is set in France in 1918. Scherman said an effort was made to utilize effects where they would have the most impact, focusing on employing them less times but at a higher quality. The film’s soundtrack, which is dark and electronic, was also designed to complement the mood of the film.

“World War I was so modern. It’s really wrong to think of it as old-fashioned,” Scherman said. “It was the most modern war for its time ever, you could argue. It was just so technologically advanced. It has this sci-fi (vibe), like, ‘What is going on? Oh, that’s called a tank.’ Imagine seeing a tank for the first time or a machine gun. So it shouldn’t feel old-fashioned, it should feel new. So that sort of electro vibe felt more fitting to me.”

Though the film surely will please fans of the genre, Scherman said its focus on character and the performances from the actors has drawn Trench 11 additional positive recognition. The film picked up a number of awards, including Best Feature Film, at the 2017 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

“It’s not just a hardcore gory horror film. I think there’s good characters, good performances and we try to tell a good story,” Scherman said. “We do have something to say. We’re trying to, at least, convey some ideas that we have about World War I’s place in this world. I think it’s an interesting way to see World War I. It’s entertaining, it’s quick, it’s dark, it’s scary but there is something in there and I hope people can take away some ideas.”

Trench 11 opens across Canada August 31. For more information, click here.

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Schitt’s Creek to conclude after next season

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The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will conclude with its sixth and final season, star and co-creator Dan Levy announced in a statement today. Photo courtesy CBC.
The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will conclude with its sixth and final season, star and co-creator Dan Levy announced in a statement today. Photo courtesy CBC.

The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will end at the conclusion of its sixth season, series co-creator and star Dan Levy announced March 21.

“We are so grateful to have been given the time and creative freedom to tell this story in its totality, concluding with a final chapter that we had envisioned from the very beginning,” Levy said in a statement. “It’s not lost on us what a rare privilege it is in this industry to get to decide when your show should take its final bow.”

Schitt’s Creek premiered on CBC in 2015, becoming one of the network’s most successful half-hour comedies ever. The show follows the fish-out-of-water Rose family, forced to assimilate into a small town after they lose their family fortune.

Though the show’s first season received mixed reviews, it grew in regard with both fans and critics over subsequent iterations. Schitt’s Creek’s fifth season, which premiered on January 8, 2019, scored a 100 per cent “Fresh” ranking on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.

The show is also among select company among Canadian sitcoms, drawing strong viewership in the United States and elsewhere thanks to distribution on Netflix and the American Pop network. Critics have reacted favourably to recent episodes, with TV Guide’s Megan Vick writing that each season of Schitt’s Creek has “gotten better and better.”

Read Levy’s full statement below.

New episodes of Schitt’s Creek air Tuesday nights at 9/9:30 NT on CBC.

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Watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short “Animal Behaviour”

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The National Film Board of Canada is offering Canadians the opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film "Animal Behaviour" until the end of today. Photo courtesy NFB
The National Film Board of Canada is offering Canadians the opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film "Animal Behaviour" until the end of today. Photo courtesy NFB

To get prepped for the 91st Academy Awards, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is offering Canadians the chance to check out Animal Behaviour, nominated tonight in the Best Animated Short Film category.

Animal Behaviour is a new short from Alison Snowden and David Fine, who previously won an Oscar in 1994 for Bob’s Birthday. The short is the 75th Oscar nomination for the NFB, and the first short film for Snowden and Fine since Bob’s Birthday. The 91st Oscars air tonight at 8 Eastern on ABC and CTV.

Watch Animal Behaviour below (expires tonight).

Next up on The Mutt: Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed

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Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed

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Wynonna Earp Season 3 Episode 11/12 - "Daddy Lessons/War Paint". Photo courtesy Bell Media
Wynonna Earp Season 4 is in jeopardy, according to the The Hollywood Reporter, due to financial difficulties. Photo courtesy Space

All of a sudden, Wynonna Earp is in Purgatory.

Earpers were stunned Thursday night when executive producer and showrunner Emily Andras posted (and subsequently deleted) a tweet suggesting that fans of the show may soon have to fight for it. Another tweet, posted shortly later, took a decidedly more straight-forward approach.

Andras appeared to be responding to the news that funding for the fourth season of Wynonna Earp appeared to be on shaky ground, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. According to THR, financial challenges faced by IDW Entertainment have stalled production on Season 4, despite the company being contractually obligated to deliver the show to Syfy.

In response to the news, Earpers took to Twitter with the hashtag #FightForWynonna, which at the time of publication was one of the top Twitter trends in Canada. Though Season 4 has yet to be officially cancelled, IDW has yet to commit to a start date for the new season.

“IDW is committed to continuing to tell the Wynonna Earp story,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Much like the fans, we are passionate about not only the series, but the comics, the characters and the overall message that the Wynonna Earp franchise carries. We are in the process of working out the details for how the Wynonna story will continue and will share new details very soon.”

Our resident Earper, Ghezal Amiri, was a big fan of Season 3, writing that the show’s season finale, entitled “War Paint”, was a “wildly emotional conclusion.” Read her recap here.

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