Overlord is a well-balanced blend of horror and sci-fi, with excellent sound design, solid gore effects and enough zombie Nazi slaying to satisfy most B-movie junkies. Julius Avery has directed a lean genre film that most are going to love.
Julius Avery‘s Overlord was once rumored to be a Cloverfield tie-in, hence the mysterious plot and J.J. Abrams involvement. But somewhere along the line, Overlord was confirmed to be its own thing entirely, giving genre audiences a hefty helping of blood and gore by way of Nazis, zombies and the chaos of World War II all rolled into one.
Overlord is a simple movie, with simple intentions. It follows a small group of U.S. soldiers that are dropped behind enemy lines with orders to take out a Nazi communications tower.
Tough guy Ford (Wyatt Russell) leads the crop of rookies as they face the horrors of war for the first time. Boyce (Jovan Adepo) is particularly fresh, not even having the stones to kill a mouse when ordered by his superior in boot camp. But that’s okay, because together, the team quickly realizes the reality (and downright certainty) of imminent death as they become outgunned and out numbered by the Nazi forces.
What they don’t realize is that the Nazi base that they were sent to destroy is also home to some weird Nazi experiments that involve taking local villagers and running deadly tests on them that have resulted in mutation, disease and even death.
Quickly, Overlord sheds its traditional war movie roots for an even blend of horror and sci-fi as the troops discover the true purpose of the Nazi base, which includes zombies and all sorts of twisted and diabolical insanity.
Director Julius Avery gives Overlord a distinct look, feel and sound. I was initially taken back by the craftsmanship of the film’s opening moments — specifically the sound and set design and how Avery manages to incorporate his camera skills with sound effects. There are a lot of noises in the film’s early moments and they correlate well with the film’s story and characters as they are thrown face-first (much like the audience) into a very loud and chaotic war.
The camera movements feel free, yet the camera moves with a distinct purpose that captures early character motives and the mindset that they are all in. It’s discombobulating and over-whelming, which is what I’d imagine a soldier in those shoes felt at the time.
Once the action settles and the characters are grounded, Overlord switches gears and begins building the story slowly, but again, with purpose. Avery understands the value (and difference) of a loud thump and a well-timed jump scare, using both appropriately and with great result.
I was surprised by the amount of times I jumped in my chair, despite generally knowing when something big was coming.
There’s a certain amount of bubbling, under-the-surface energy in Overlord that remains present throughout the entire film, slowly exposing itself as the shit hits the fan.
Hats off to the cast, including Wyatt Russell and Jovan Adepo. Both men give the film its much-needed dose of hard ass and compassion. Russell plays the been-through-it-all soldier that’s simply following orders, while Adepo plays the hesitant soldier that is faced with conflict the deeper they find themselves behind enemy lines. Both men understand what needs to get done, but prefer to go about things in a different manner.
The gore in Overlord is fantastic, accompanying the action with a mixture of both practical effects and CG. I appreciated the amount of blood and dismemberment on display, as we just don’t seem to see these types of full-on genre films these days.
Overlord may start with a retro Grindhouse-styled title card, but it remains mostly a serious film that is aware of its crazy plot, but plays it up mostly with a straight face. This keeps the film from becoming too much of a joke, which is crucial to maintaining the film’s rock-solid tone.
I never realized how much I was craving such a fun genre film. Overlord is a balls-to-the-wall war film with a heavy dose of B-movie gore, balancing the horror and sci-fi in a way that feels wholesome and guided.
Director Julius Avery has made a Mystery Box movie worth getting excited about and taking your friends to see. I was initially bummed by the lack of Cloverfield involvement, but those disappointments were immediately erased as I sat down and the film’s credits started to hit the screen.
Overlord is a gory blast that deserves to be seen on the loudest screen possible. Don’t skip it this Holiday season.