What happens when you mix World War II Nazis and Zombies? No, it’s not another Call of Duty game this time, instead it’s Bad Robot’s newest movie: Overlord directed by Julius Avery. Set in Europe on D-Day, this movie features a ragtag crew of soldiers sent on a mission behind enemy lines to disrupt German forces. However, due to complications, they discover something much more sinister lurking behind the curtain of German-occupied France. Going into theaters, it is presumed that the movie would be a “shut your brain off guns blazing murder-fest” however that couldn’t be further from what viewers will find. Instead, prepare for a gritty wartime horror with intriguing characters and a gruesome mystery.
While the movie comes off as Tarantino-esque from the initial premise, the film diverges from the campy zombie horrors of the past 30 years in a fantastic way that keeps the suspense and intrigue high. Starting off in wartime Europe, we are led to believe that the film will feature the destructive grittiness of Saving Private Ryan or Behind Enemy Lines, however what we get is something entirely different and inspiringly fun and creative. Similar to the 1987 film Predator, Overlord starts off as a war movie built around the characters camaraderie but quickly u-turns into the paranormal to grab viewers and make them think, “what if Nazi’s got their hands on the supernatural killer undead?” While the movie certainly features its own unique flavor, this does not mean that it is some niche cult film that will be unbearable for most and loved by only the hardcore fans. There is certainly something for fans of fast-paced action as well as those who love slow build-up mind-benders. The plot of the movie, while consisting of secret labs, evil doctors, and murderous zombies, still feels like a war movie with zombies rather than a zombie flick set during war time –a thin rope to balance on, yet Overlord does it wonderfully.
The film features a cast of relatively unknown actors whose roles are all incredibly likeable, which really gives the movie a phenomenally immersive experience. Each individual feels fleshed out and humanly fragile; a breath of fresh air in the overly saturated superhero world in which we currently reside. Wyatt Russell and Jovan Adepo are quirky and have enough character to carry the film entirely on their own, while the rest of the crew are definitely the cherries on top to bring life to a grim universe. The setting of the movie, while only really consisting of two major areas, paints a grim-dark picture that is both immersive and awesome. On one side we have an obliterated French town and on the other, a cold dark underground laboratory that hosts a myriad of evil concoctions that really highlight the disgusting and horrific atrocities that one would expect from a secret underground Nazi lab.
Although the movie was very enjoyable, it is not without its faults. While the run time isn’t exceptionally long, clocking in at around 1 hour 48 minutes, that’s not to say that Overlord doesn’t drag on in certain scenes. At some points, the action dwindled as we watch a character move from room to room slowly discovering secrets over and over again as if it were a 1990s point and click adventure game. The breaks between action and mystery were few and far between, however, and definitely did not break the immersive atmosphere that the movie had set. Character depth was also a major issue for the film. The characters, while all very likeable and interesting in their own right, were not fleshed out as well as they could have been. A quick intro akin to the one received in high school classrooms was about as deep as we got into most of our character’s lives, and it felt a bit dry to be left with so little backstory on the motivation for our heroes.
Overlord is director Julius Avery’s second full-feature film, and with a budget of only $38 million, the style and feel of the movie was exceptionally well done and was a very quirky and fun experience. I would highly recommend fans of both horror and war action check out Overlord in theaters to support the brilliant storytelling that is both unique and interesting without being another remake or superhero flick and to experience the carnage of a World War II Nazi Zombie action-horror firsthand.