For months I have seen the previews for Overlord in theaters. At one point I was so over-saturated with the trailer that I thought to myself, ‘If I see this one more time I’m not seeing the movie.’ Of course I tend to go to the movies so much now that a truly new trailer is a treat for me. From viewing the trailer so frequently I instinctively had two thoughts. I thought that Overlord would either be an amazing film or this will be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I was determined that no gray area existed. Oddly enough though a middle ground does exist with this film. Despite that Overlord is not my favorite horror film ever, the unique nature of the film has me excited for the built in sequel.
Imagine what would happen if 28 Days Later and Re-Animator had a baby sans the bizarre laughs we gain from Jeffrey Combs deadpan performance and we have Overlord. The film takes place on the eve of D-Day. As we see in an explosive opening, American paratroopers are dropped into enemy territory with the single goal of destroying a radio transmitter inside of a church. However, upon approaching the church we discover alongside the soldiers that the Nazis have experiments lurking deep within the depths of the basement that’s more than meets the eye.
What I enjoy about this film the most is the immediate connection we build with the soldiers in the film we ultimately end up following. We are immediately drawn to Boyce (Jovan Adepo), Ford (Wyatt Russell), Tibbet (Josh Magaro), Chase (Iain De Casestecker), and Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite). We become immediately invested in their stories and despite that gut feeling that not everyone will make it out of this mission alive, we want them to. We have a clear definition of who the good guys are in this scenario and that the Nazis are our villains. If history does not make this clear enough Wafner (Pilou Asbæk) reminds quickly. Wafner might very well be one of my favorite villains of the year actually.
In addition, I love that the primary female character kicks butt and takes name in the film. Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) is not some mere prisoner, but a character determined to help bring down the German soldiers that have essentially taken over her city. While some of the actions she must partake in is not something she necessarily enjoys, she does what she must to accomplish a common goal. I find her portrayal refreshing and joy to watch as she interacts with our soldiers. Plus she attempts to escape one of the zombies in the church is a particularly scene thrilling to watch.
The special effects in this film are some of the finest I’ve seen. Many moments have forever ingrained themselves in my mind thanks to this film. One specifically is one of the test subjects who we hear at first before having to register the horrors we are witnessing. These are not your average zombies. They are zombies on steroids and that makes them far more dangerous than any other zombie I’ve ever seen. When one can run fast that’s one problem, but these seemingly can communicate and make plans that’s a terrifying thought to process. What makes this even more frightening is knowing that Dr. Schmidt (Erich Redman) has not perfected his precious serum.
Various shots and angles were also used to portray anxiety within the film which works to provide an even creepier atmosphere to a place most consider holy. To know that these experiments are taking place in a church could honestly provide a horror film all on its own with the spirits of the unfortunate victims. In many ways we are forced into the scenes with these characters creating a claustrophobic effect that lingers with us hours after we are in the comfort of our own homes once more. We find ourselves wondering what exactly lurks in the darkness and how can we devise a plan to get away from the shadows against the walls we must fear.
My main complaint with the film is the lack of story. At the core it’s supposed be about the soldiers and their journey, but I want to know more about the doctor. What made him decide to commit the experiments on dead people as opposed to the living? What provoked him to come up with the serum he used on his test subjects? So many questions about the doctor I feel are left unanswered that I want to know. Maybe there’s a journal somewhere explaining his thought process for what I’m assuming will be a sequel because of the soldiers moved to another company and the fact they mention taking down Hitler.
Ultimately Overlord is an action packed horror film. Some of the images and moments riddled throughout the film truly do shock the audience. I do not consider this a film for the faint of heart or the average movie goer. While I did not find myself truly frightened more than once, I still made audible noises along with the rest of the theater patrons who chose to see this film a day early last night. When a film can make one sit back and gasp it has accomplished something even if that emotion is not accompanied by fear. While some will consider the film gore for gore sake, sometimes we have to witness the truly horrific to truly realize what a person or a group of people are capable of to understand just how horrible they are and Overlord certainly delivers in that regard.