Overlord (USA 2018) Dir: Julius Avery
Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbæk
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the war and horror film genres should be natural bedfellows, and given that World War II is indelibly etched into both British and American popular culture it’s surprising that the many cross genre films that have been attempted have all been execrable dross (special mention for Michael Mann’s 1983 effort THE KEEP, but even that’s a very mixed bag.)
Step forward OVERLORD, the latest offering from JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot stable. The trailer promised much, with FURY levels of war violence mixed in with the Nazi super soldiers trope topped of with AC/DC on the soundtrack. Thankfully, director Julius Avery’s Ronseal approach to his film means we pretty much get what we were promised. The tight narrative sees gentle farm boy turned paratrooper Boyce (Adepo) and his comrades dropped into occupied France on the eve of D-Day to take out a German radio tower located in a nearby town.
They soon discover something very nefarious going on in the German base involving human experiments conducted by the sinister Dr Schmidt (Erich Redman) backed up by rent a villain Nazi Commandant Wagner (Asbæk).
OVERLORD knows that it’s b-movie schlock albeit backed with a decent budget and studio backed marketing, and it and wisely chooses to revels in the fact. With that in mind the script takes care to avoid any incongruous humour, and the cast play the whole thing straight. Thus we avoid tipping into IRON SKY territory with proceedings kept just the right side of ludicrous, as Avery cranks the cartoonish level of violence all the way to eleven.
Unlike the current glut of spandex drenched bore-a-thons bunging up the multiplexes, OVERLORD doesn’t lose sight of the story it is telling and never feels like it has neglected its narrative in favour of spectacle. Sure, it may come in for criticism from some quarters for its theme of Nazi human experimentation, but these are Indiana Jones style comic book nazis, and while Avery’s film riffs off old school exploitation it never reaches ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS levels of bad taste either.
This is a solid action horror that, while containing no surprises, certainly won’t disappoint its intended audience either. And on the face of it who ever went to see an action-horror mash up featuring Nazi super soldiers expecting Shakespearean levels of character development?