By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
Before the Allied invasion of Normandy beach in 1944, a group of U.S. Airborne soldiers prepare to be dropped behind enemy lines with a mission to destroy a communications post built into the church of a small French village. As with most of the Airborne operations on the eve of D-Day, things go horribly wrong from the start, and Private Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) finds himself alone in the woods. Boyce eventually locates Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), and a couple other members of his squad, but it become clear that they are the only survivors of the landing. Forced to improvise to complete the mission, they ally with a civilian woman who shows them that the communications post they were sent to destroy is just part of a more nefarious facility. Boyce soon discovers that deep underneath the church the Nazis are conducting sadistic and horrifying experiments on abducted townspeople.
“Give me a hand… Literally”
Very rarely do cross-genre concept films receive the budget or resources needed to tell their story appropriately. Fortunately Bad Robot productions have outdone themselves by managing to find a middling budget that was sufficient to provide the filmmakers with just enough to get things done. Overlord is a high concept horror movie that manages to feel fresh without re-treading the territory of prior attempts at paranormal war films. Horror and War films share enough in common that this mix feels natural, a genre gumbo so to speak. Overlord excels in the way it treats the fantastical/paranormal elements of the story just as seriously as the historical and realistic parts.
Pacing is the key for this sort of story and Overlord chose a similar route to last year’s Get Out in that it takes its time with relationships while also building up slowly to the shocking twist. This gives the audience time to grow comfortable with the concept and actually learn to trust (or distrust) and care about the characters. So few modern horror movies do more than provide meat to throw into the grinder; it is revitalizing to see a movie where the fate of the individual cast members make such a strong impact on the viewer.
Nice to find someone who cares…
While Overlord‘s budget isn’t massive (and sometimes the CGI does show some lack of polish), it doesn’t ever intrude on the story, as the sharp cinematography and clever editing enhance the stakes of every action sequence. The audience is never given too much time to pick apart technical faults. One aspect which helps is that the filmmakers used plenty of practical effects whenever possible. This maintains the visceral feel that makes the gore more gruesome.
“You wanna know how I got these scars?”
I can’t help but feel that Overlord is an evolutionary step forward in genre blending, one that outclasses similarly themed films from far more seasoned directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. While films like Grindhouse, Django Unchained, Machete, and Inglorious Basterds might attempt to update exploitation films for modern eyes, they still feel like conscious efforts to throw back to the past. Overlord also borrows some exploitation film elements, but the movie never breaks the fourth wall. There is a distinct lack of “hey remember this?” in this movie, despite the fact ease with which they could have emulated Nazisploitation movies of the 1970s and still brought in the same audience. Director Julius Avery clearly has a humble respect for its audience, trusting us to appreciate what he’s attempting without any pretension or shift of focus. The story takes precedence over references, and that’s goddamned refreshing.
Overlord is perhaps the perfect fusion of the war and horror genres, taking itself just seriously enough to create genuine tension and fear, while still delivering the schlocky goods one comes to expect from a good monster movie.
Overlord (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for “men on a mission” war movie clichés
Take a Drink: for the body-count
Drink a Shot: for horrifying experiments
Nitpicking Historian Drinking Game: drink for every inaccuracy or anachronism