A small group of American soldiers discovers horrors
beyond their wildest dreams on the eve of D-Day.
Directed by Julius Avery
Written by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith
Starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier,
Pilou Asbæk, John Magaro, Iain De Caestecker, Bokeem Woodbine
Overlord is a film that I'm sure was a horror masterwork at some point during the writing process, but ended up being much more watered-down and uneventful than I had hoped. For some reason, the combination of Nazis and zombies has fascinated horror fans for decades. Look no further than the 2009 black comedy Dead Snow for proof of that. But Overlord is trying too hard to be mysterious, and the overall point of the film gets lost because of it. By the film's end, we still don't know what the hell was causing all of this or where it came from. If it weren't for the camaraderie amongst the American soldiers and the over-the-top performance from Pilou Asbæk, I might've called this one a misfire.
With no setup, we are thrust into the heart of battle on the eve of D-Day as a plane explodes, dropping our heroes behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France. We're given a vague mission of blowing up a control tower, and the film takes quite a while to get going. The battle scenes are pretty good and the creature effects are quite astonishing. But there's barely any substance behind the story. The film doesn't go nearly as far as the trailer suggested, and with a concept like this, the sky really is the limit.
Overlord is missing a lot more than I expected, but the third act just about saves the movie. When the bickering ends, the final assault begins, and the zombies (or experiments, I guess) are (kinda) set loose. Really, you just get two. Like I said, the film doesn't go as far as it could, and that's really what kept this from being a solid win for me.
Now this, this is how you make a movie involving Nazi experimentation. Overlord is that rare movie that attempts to blend two genres together; in this case, horror and war drama. And, for the most part, it pulls off this combination surprisingly well. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to stick with a large audience. The movie came and went, barely making over its budget. Luckily, word of mouth has been extremely kind, ensuring a possible future as a cult classic someday.
The biggest thing that helps this movie pull off both of its genres is the performances. The cast all rise to the occasion in selling a story that starts off grounded before quickly escalating into more outrageous territory. Of the cast, the two standouts have to be Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell. Adepo does a great job of being the everyman for the audience, while Russell channels a bit of his famous father and gives us a great performance of a hardened soldier dedicated to the mission. As a horror fan, I also have to give a shoutout to the effects in this movie. Once the Nazi experimentation angle is introduced, some truly insanely gross stuff is put on display.
Overlord should have been a bigger hit. It’s a fun movie that balances a perfect line between horror and war drama. The actors give great performances and the movie gives us the goods once it bounces into more horrific territory. While it may not have been a box office hit, it has gotten very good word of mouth. So, hopefully, this will at least become the cult classic it deserves to be.