Overlord was marketed towards me as “Nazi Zombies: The Movie,” so I didn’t expect much of it. Yet another cheap gore and guns feature to come out around Halloween; nothing new over here. However, with a pretty decent script, above average cinematography, some fine actors and good effects, Overlord manages to rise above its not so lofty premise, and is an entertaining B-Movie piece of cinema schlock that manages to end up being quite endearing.
Overlord begins with a crew of American paratroopers flying over Nazi-occupied France the day before D-Day. Their mission is to parachute in and destroy a radio jamming tower built over an old church, in order to allow the D-Day crews to land with air support. However, their plane is shot down, and only our four main characters survive. These include protagonist Boyce (Adepo), a soft-hearted African-American, and Ford (Russell), their tough as nails corporal. They arrive close to the town and are aided by Chloe, a French woman living in the occupied village. She aids them in their mission, up to the point where it becomes clear that strange and evil experiments are going on in the church itself.
In many ways, Overlord is just a traditional war movie with an oppressive atmosphere, up until about a third or half of the movie in. When Boyce goes into the church and sees the menagerie of evil experiments going on there, which eventually leads to the discovery that the Nazis are bringing back undead soldiers to fight for them, it feels like a natural ramping up of the tone that has come before. The slightly eerie, unnerving feeling of the town now makes sense – there really is something awful going on over here, and the experiments and monsters look the part.
Here’s what I think separates this movie from other lesser efforts in the genre: firstly, we always have good spatial awareness, starting with Chloe’s home as a set, and then inside the Church. I could follow as the characters ran between corridors and rooms almost exactly where they were and how far they were from each other, after only seeing it a couple times.
…I think it was the right choice to cast relatively unknown actors…
Secondly, the actors may be archetypes in one way or another, but all of them (aside from the dead ones) have decent arcs and growth, which is surprising in a movie like this which has a sub-two hour run time.
Thirdly, I think it was the right choice to cast relatively unknown actors, as having one tent pole name on board would have detracted from the rest of the squad, and instead gave these young actors a chance to shine. The most famous actor I recognised was the villainous Wafner, played Pilou Asbaek, a.k.a. Euron Greyjoy from Game of Thrones.
Fourthly, there are some well-considered long tracking shots and angles in this film, notably when Boyce is running out of the compound at one stage. The feeling of movement and pacing that must be achieved at times like these was well-considered and structured.
Finally, the zombies and monsters were used to an effective degree – first we see the aftermath of failed experiments and hints about what’s going on, then we see a little more, and when the first actual monster is shown to us, our feeling of finally knowing what is going on, mixed with what is happening to this person as they reanimate is deeply disturbing. When the climax comes and a few other monsters join in for a big finale, it feels like an acceptable escalation without being excessively overdone. The zombie monsters also have reasonably creative designs and feel quite threatening.
…the zombies and monsters were used to an effective degree…
I don’t know if I felt actually scared during Overlord so much as unnerved and disturbed, but I found it quite entertaining once the gore started to fly. It’s not something I would watch more than once, for a fun Halloween movie with friends I myself have done much worse in the past before than this movie would have been. I’m really glad they didn’t go with making it another link in the Cloverfield series, as they had threatened, as now, in the end, we have a modern-day B-Movie splatfest that reminds us that sometimes the old tropes can still be fun if done right.
Overlord is an entertaining B-Movie that manages to end up being quite endearing. It rises above other lesser efforts in the genre.