Genre mash-ups can be a lot of fun, and when it’s horror with another genre, the results can be quite surprising – horror-comedy being one of the more prevalent of these – but one horror combo that doesn’t get a lot of love is the horror/war movie mash-up, which is why Overlord is such a treat. The best way to describe this movie is by picturing Easy Company from Band of Brothers encountering a Nazi version of the Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil, and if that doesn’t sound like fun to you, then we have nothing further to discuss.
The plot of Overlord is fairly basic; a squad of paratroopers is air-dropped into France in advance of the D-Day invasion, their mission? To take out a Nazi radio installation located in the tower of an old church. But when they reach the quaint French village where the church is located, things don’t go quite as expected. Turns out an evil Nazi scientist – one who clearly went to the Josef Mengele School of Medicine – is experimenting with a strange and mysterious liquid compound that had been discovered beneath the church, and the result of these experiments could lead to the end of the Free World and the birthing of a Thousand Year Reich.
Directed by Julius Avery, from a story and screenplay by Billy Ray, Overlord is an incredibly solid war movie, from the thrilling perilous night drop – which results in about 90% of the squad being lost or killed – right up until our surviving heroes hook-up with a French woman named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who is able to take them to her town where the German radio installation is located, and where they hunker down to figure out how four men are going to fight through a hundred German soldiers and destroy that tower. Up to this point, we’d been experiencing a taught and action-filled war movie – with enemy troops and landmines threatening our heroes at every turn – but when our intrepid soldiers encounter the sadistic and part-time rapist SS Hauptsturmführer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk), things go from grim to downright terrifying.
Overlord doesn’t worry about having big stars to bring in an audience, but the ones they have on hand do fantastic work here, especially Jovan Adepo as Pvt. Ed Boyce, the green recruit who may not have the killing instinct needed to survive this mission.The character of Boyce is beautifully counterpointed by Cpl. Ford (Wyatt Russell) as the “been there done that” seasoned soldier and Ford is damn well going to accomplish this mission no matter the cost, a point of view that doesn’t always sit well with Boyce. It’s this kind of conflict that brings a little spice to the proceedings and stops the film from just being a two-hour version of Wolfenstein. Now, our little band of heroes may come off as a little cliché – the required Brooklyn guy is found front and center – but this kind of works in the film’s favour, as it puts the audience at ease with the feel of war films of the past, and that allows the filmmakers to easily pull the rug out from under us when we come face to face with undead Nazis.
Simply put, this film is tons of fun – when our plucky heroes aren’t mowing down German soldiers like stalks of wheat, they’re running down dark corridors with a series of nasty monsters hard on their heels – and the CGI blood and gore is kept to a minimum as practical effects are allowed free reign in this film. We get characters rushing off to complete separate missions, whether it be to rescue a small French boy, or plant demolition charges to complete their mission, and then there are taught character moments that let us get to know our heroes between moments of humor and outright horror, and it’s director Julius Avery who manages to keep all these balls perfectly juggled while constantly upping the ante. If any movie could be described as “edge of your seat entertainment,” it would be Overlord, from the opening terrifying airdrop sequence to the film’s final moments of nail-biting horror, it grabs hold of you and never let’s go. If you are a fan of the 2008 Ray Stevenson film Outpost, or the Nazi zombie movie Dead Snow, you would be doing yourself a big disservice if you missed Overlord.
Overlord is a no-holds-barred action/horror war movie that will thrill you, make you cheer for the heroes, and at times possibly make it difficult to hold down your lunch, this is one horror film that is not to be missed.