Say what you will about the man, J.J. Abrams has a knack for creating interesting new properties. They may not all be winners (The Cloverfield Paradox) but at least he believes in creating new ideas, even when the properties are older than me (Star Wars, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible) he always manages a new, interesting approach to every project he posts his Bad Robot banner over. Enter Overlord. When I heard the premise I had two thoughts: One- It seems so obvious but… Two- No one has ever thought of it before. I like to think that means it’s such a good idea that to have never thought of it before now seems almost impossible. Especially in the era of the zombie and resurgence of the horror genre as a whole.
I believe it’s the mark of a talented storyteller to know when to ease into a story, to establish character and conflict which forces the story’s characters to act in whatever way the story demands; or when a story should just get to the point, no tip toeing in the shallow end, time for a cannonball in the deep end. This is a strength of Overlord as it dumps the audience into the middle of a literal warzone. We learn character names, some basic traits of everyone aboard the doomed warplane; who’s the clown, the big talker, the quiet one, the one that has seen some shit. After this the story takes precedence with a one track mind only to be violently shoved into a George A. Romero wet dream. While these particular screaming wretches are not exactly zombies in the traditional sense the basic rules still very much apply.
As much of a horror film as this is, Overlord does right by the reality of war, particularly WWII, and showcases that zombies roaming and moaning aren’t required to create a hellish landscape of blood, torture and death. The realities of what happened over there are enough to make one’s skin crawl. Once a world of unforgiving brutality is established zombie nazis make their claim on the world of the living and the dead taking an already nightmarish premise and making it truly scream for mercy only to find none.
This is horror but I would stress a bit of caution for those looking for a straight horror film. It is firmly in the genre but it’s approached from a more action oriented focus where zombies just happen to be. Overlord is very much an equal opportunity story splitting pretty evenly its time between the undead and the missions faced on D-Day, 1944. But when these two worlds collide it is a blood soaked myriad of bodies dropping, bodies rising again and seeing the heroes of this ultimate suffering facing it with little to no hope for survival and pushing forward anyway, as we hope all our heroes would.
If I had to compare this film to an inanimate object it would be a powder keg. You know what’s inside, you know what will happen if you light the fuse but you also know that timing is everything and if it goes off too early the wrong people die and stories fall short. Think of the lead up to thee discovery as one long fuse lit from the moment we board the soldier laden warplane only to explode in a magically horrific fashion that goes off and never lets up.
Abrams has done it again bringing forth a film that is every bit as entertaining as promised. It’s fresh, violently jovial and filled with a charismatic cast eager to please and does so convincingly. Overlord isn’t anything too special but I don’t think it was ever meant to be. This is the last breath of a summer at the movies hoping to simply entertain by means of visceral storytelling without ever losing its sense of fun, even in the darker moments. My overall summation of Overlord is that its aim of pure cinematic fun is hit right on the bullseye. It’s a hybrid of Saving Private Ryan, Inglourious Basterds and Dawn of the Dead. It’s just bad ass.
P.S. – I’m well aware of Call of Duty Zombies and the Dead Snow movies. When I said no one has ever thought of it I meant the approach, the perspective of how the nazi zombies came to be.
Rated R For: strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and brief sexual content
Runtime: 109 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Horror, Mystery
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro
Directed By: Julius Avery
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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