The premise of Overlord is very simple; American soldiers in World War II vs. Nazi Zombies. Produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, many fans speculated it was going to be another entry into the Cloverfield franchise (Spoiler; it’s not). The film isn’t a brand new take on the idea that Hitler was experimenting with the occult, just look at Hellboy, Call of Duty or Dead Snow. And neither does it bring anything unique to the horror genre. It’s a straightforward story; a team of Paratroopers need to take out a radio tower so that D-Day can take place with air support. But once the group get there, they discover horrific experiments underground.
“THERE ARE A FEW MOMENTS OF BODY HORROR THAT ARE GENUINELY SHOCKING, BUT THEY FAIL TO LAND INTO THE CRONENBERG + CARPENTER HALL OF FAME.”
Led by Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), the team land near a French village after a traumatic flight behind enemy lines. One element that Overlord manages to get across with ease, is the brutality of war and how it scars those pulled into it. After that, it quickly becomes a little stereotypical. Most of the jump-scares are visible from a mile away but work well in the narrative of confronting characters like Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) with the secret horrors of the Nazi experiments. Scaring the audience? Not so much.
There are a few moments of body horror that are genuinely shocking, but they fail to land into the Cronenberg + Carpenter hall of fame. The attempted rape of the only major female character, Chloe (Mathilde Oliver), seemed like an attempt to further vilify the Nazis, as if zombie experiments, decapitations and executions weren’t enough. Pilou Asbæk plays an SS Officer with an over-the-top sinister portrayal mixed with stereotypical villainous dialogue. It’s not the most memorable performance from the Game of Thrones actor, but he at least provides a good villain for the finale.
It’s not that Overlord is a bad film, there are moments of characterisation for each cast member that gives the audience an insight to their mindsets. The action sequences are well choreographed, the opening flight into enemy territory in particular is incredibly tense. But it does feel incredibly formulaic that can’t be saved by minor character development. The plot stumbles through some pitfalls that wouldn’t feel out of place in a video game; run here, hide, shoot this, blow something up, hide.
But, watching this as a big budget B-movie makes it much more entertaining. If this was made in the mid-80s, Overlord would probably have a cult following by now. As a simple blockbuster it can be quite fun as a mindless horror-thriller. It’s not overly complicated and doesn’t require too much concentration. Plus, fans of gory horror won’t be disappointed as the film doesn’t cut-away from several brutal killings, transformations and zombie madness. Although surprisingly, there aren’t as many zombie experiments running around as we’re led to believe in the trailer. The true villains of the film are the Nazis, if you hadn’t guessed already.
While it’s nothing hugely special, as a simple rock ’em shlock ’em horror thriller it does the job fine. Just don’t go in expecting profound social commentaries or connections to the Cloverfield films.
What did you think of Overlord? Let us know on Twitter @Heroes Direct!
B-Movie madness and a simple plot makes it a fun watch, but there's not much substance lurking below the horror.
- Character Development