Director: Julius Avery
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbæk USA. 1h 50m
I didn’t know anything about this movie before I started seeing it’s backlash, but I personally believe that it’s a mistake to look at Overlord as a Horror movie, it’s just a Blackened Action War movie. The mechanism is generally simple, good guy Americana vs pure evil monster nazi,in between there’s a overnight coming of age, us and them dynamics and any excuse to shoehorn in some swearing and mild violence. Overall I find that the film sits neatly between a homage to lurid EC Comics series like Tales from the Crypt and the Wolfenstein video games, without taking it too seriously or trying to fit it neatly into historical facts I really enjoyed the black lead cast in their sometimes gory adventure, it’s not a great film, there’s nothing truly outstanding but for me it’s incredibly enjoyable.
Much like Saving Private Ryan (1998) the movie opens with some American troops being landed in a remote region of France in order to push back the Germans and destroy a radio tower, the jobs seems pretty straight forwards until a majority of the troops are shredded before they hit the ground in an explosive night time drop sequence. The handful of survivors collect themselves and head into the village, and chance across a young scavenger, Chloe (Ollivier) who’s basically the only French resistance they have on their side. The young woman is looking after her sickly grandmother and little brother, their parents were taken by the Nazi’s and Chloe does what she can for her existing family, including entertaining the advancements of Captain Wafner (Asbæk) who’s a sadistic and manipulative SS Hauptsturmführer who’s in control of the village and the mysterious experiments going on around the radio tower.
Slowly the handful of American troops, lead by the determination of Corporal Lewis Ford (Russell) but the star is easily the African American Private First Class Edward Boyce (Adepo) who lives by his heart, quick wits and cunning, between these two they manage to accidently uncover a secret underground base where Nazi scientist have found a unidentified liquid in the French soil which they have tweaked to give their soldiers an unfair deadly advantage, turning them into vicious undying, beasts who don’t feel any pain. How can a handful of good guys really achieve their mission against the impossible?
Despite my intro of the film being an action film, it does have a lot of bodies and body horror involved but it’s just fragments of a powerful action film, Overlord refuses to conform to being a full on action or horror, it has strong narrative of good and evil, it’s very traditional in some aspects and chucking in the cliche of Nazi Zombies isn’t easy to do after so many other films have gone there before but I love the new black evil liquid and its effects but I hate not knowing what it is.
Having an African American in the lead of a horror movie is brilliant, as there are so few and when the old school cliche is that the black guy never makes it, to finally have a lead who’s easy to identify with is really important for popular cinema and Jovan Adepo is perfect for this role, where he has to literally mature from boy to man overnight and in the face of pure evil. Alongside him is the immensely strong and determined Russell who gave a solid performance while not attempting to just be his father.
In 100 years time this won’t be remembered as one of the greatest films of 2018 but it’s fast faced action and humane characters are memorable propelled along by the insane zombie like monsters although far too few. But this is not just another zombie movie.Overlord succeeds exactly because it is not ‘just’ anything. The young actors are fantastic and there are several well-crafted twists on the genre, it skilfully combines dollops of dark humour with gore and scares, making good use of the expansive special effects, but certainly something worth watching with an open mind.
R: Deathwatch (2002), Dod Sno (2009), Crimson Rivers (2000), Crimson Rivers II (2004)
L: A-Z of World War II movies, Nazi Zombies