Our staff buckles in for a wild ride with the zombie/war mashup “Overlord” from Julius Avery and Bad Robot; is this popcorn flick as tasty as it looks?
After being fortunate enough to catch the world premiere of the JJ Abrams-produced genre mashup Overlord at Fantastic Fest in Austin, I couldn’t wait for my team of talented writers to experience the glorious mayhem for themselves. It killed at the festival, with audiences declaring it a monstrous good time.
But two other highly anticipated horror films also dazzled at the fest, including Halloween and Suspiria, only to meet with a mixed reception once hitting the theaters. As we all know too well, us genre fans can be a fickle bunch. And films that blend ingredients from multiple genres can be quite satisfying — or they can be a recipe for disaster. I was eager to find out if Overlord would be an explosive hit or a disappointing dud.
Fortunately, it looks like this is one film that fans agree is as satisfyingly fun and endlessly entertaining as it promises — and definitely one worth checking out at the theater for maximum enjoyment. OVERLORD is the very definition of a popcorn flick, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. It’s the kind of film that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves you feeling positively giddy.
But don’t take my word for out. Check out these four different takes on Overlord from our writers in a segment we call Morbid Minis. (Angry Princess)
TAKE ONE: SERIOUSLY SATISFYING FROM BEGINNING TO END
I loved the opening title and its old-school design. It wasn’t “pretending” to be old. Instead, it was taking that antiquated type of military font and artwork and carrying it to the next logical level. And the promotional poster is to die for, with the red-on-white blood drips that are shaped like soldiers in parachutes.
There has been a mis-conception about Overlord. It doesn’t hit the ground running. It takes a screeching bullet shower, then gets blown out of the sky. Once it plummets to the ground, it starts running. The first punch Overlord hits you with is extreme sonic war violence. It is overwhelmingly loud, and in the right way, like iron being torn to shreds and giant engines exploding. Characters are quickly and sufficiently introduced as they wait to parachute out of their carrier: the leader guy, the tough guy, the scared guy, the funny guy, the camera nerd guy, and so on.
Their mission is to infiltrate a tower (which looks like something out of a Hammer movie) and destroy the Nazi communication operation the enemy has set up there. Our main character accidentally sneaks into the tower (you’ll understand when you see it, it’s fucking sick), and while he wanders the stone hallways looking for a way out, he sees what is going on underneath the communications tower.
That’s when the mad scientist mutant supers-soldier stuff starts to happen, and the horror flavors of the story begin to seep in. But the interesting thing is, even though it clearly integrated horror into the genre it was originally playing in, the change was seamless. It made perfect sense. The “WTF” moments didn’t pull me out of the picture.
Overlord had a raging grip on me, and it didn’t let go. Especially when it was dragging me through a chain of explosions in one single take.
I was reminded of several recent war/soldier/horror hybrids, but I never pointed out ideas stolen from those movies. For instance, the concluding “big plan” to bring it all down was something I’ve never seen before. It was a brutal and clever plan. The story itself won’t re-invent the torture wheel, but the breakneck pace at which it was told made that unimportant.
Unflinching splatter, yet avoiding splatstick. War drama, but not a Spielbergian tear-jerker. Monster movie, but not a kaiju in sight. Plus, if you’re looking for one, this would be a very good gateway horror film if you want to start exposing your children to the harder stuff. This movie is pulp action horror through-and-through, and a bloody great time. (Jamie Marino)
TAKE TWO: FUN HORROR MOVIE, NEEDS MORE MONSTERS
I’m going to be honest with you. When I watched the first trailer for OVERLORD and saw it was produced by J.J. Abrams, and the AC/DC song “Highway To Hell” played, I expected the worst. But over time, with additional trailers and marketing, I started to warm up to OVERLORD. I pre-gamed for opening weekend by watching some horror movies set during World War II with evil scientist Nazis and occult Nazis.
Director Julius Avery brings OVERLORD to the screen: a story about a group of American allied soldiers tasked with taking out a radio tower in France on the eve of D-Day. When the squad of American soldiers, whose numbers are reduced to four after a daring nighttime air drop into France, reaches their objective, they find that there is more going on in a local church used by the Nazis than transmitting radio instructions to the German armed forces.
OVERLORD is reminiscent of the HBO series, “Band of Brothers,” at least at the outset. The movie starts with an exciting air drop behind enemy lines. Like “Band of Brothers”, many soldiers are killed in the plane or during the drop (hanged from trees by their parachutes, drowned in the ocean, or shot by German soldiers after landing). And like the series, the squad leader is killed, requiring someone to take the lead — bomb expert, Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell).
The squad is reduced to Boyce (Jovan Adepo), an African-American soldier, Tibbet (John Magaro) a gruff soldier with a heart of gold, and Chase (Iain De Caestecker) a squad photographer. As the squad makes their way to the targeted church/radio tower, they come upon a scrounger, Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who ends up helping them get into the French town, undetected by German patrols. It is in the village that the sinister plots of the Germans become exposed to the American soldiers.
OVERLORD takes its time getting to the Nazi created monsters, but that’s not a negative. Avery has made an exciting war movie without the involvement of the monsters. The tension keeps rising as we’re waiting for the squad to be discovered, or to find out if Chloe will turn them in to protect herself and her family, and what exactly is going on with Chloe’s aunt who is sick and hiding in her room.
When the secrets of the old church are revealed and the monsters unleashed, OVERLORD becomes a non-stop roller coaster ride of hidden sewer tunnels, bloody mayhem, and monstrous nightmares come to life.
Despite that, I left the theater a little disappointed.
OVERLORD is a fun, exciting movie. The acting is fantastic, especially from the two leads, Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell. The evil SS Captain, Warner, as played by Pilou Asbaek, is appropriately slimy and unlikeable, without completely going overboard into a stereotypical mustache twirling villain. Julius Avery does a fine job in the director’s chair, and the effects by Industrial Light & Magic are incredible.
Still, there was something nagging at me as I left the theater. As good as the movie is, it’s missing something. OVERLORD needs more monsters and grotesque human abominations, and it needs more time with the mad Nazi scientist Dr. Schmidt (Erich Redman). It could have used some hideous creatures like the Ripley clones in ALIEN: RESURRECTION. Imagine the disgust of seeing a laboratory filled with failed, dead human experiments next to failed human experiments that were kept alive for further study!
In the finally tally, OVERLORD is an entertaining move that hits an action movie and monster sweet spot, but could have used more creatures to really give fans a great horror movie.
Pro-tip: Double-Feature OVERLORD with a movie I recently found on Amazon Prime: THE DEVIL’S ROCK (2011). The two films are thematically similar, and the ending of THE DEVIL’S ROCK fits seamlessly into the beginning of OVERLORD. The combination of the two will give you all the gore and monster action you could ask for. (Patrick Krause)
TAKE THREE: EVERYTHING JUST WORKS
What do you get when you set a zombie movie with an action movie with a war drama — oh yeah, and a whole lot of gory bits? I’m guessing it’s pretty much going to look like Overlord. Sometimes when you get a movie that tries to do too much genre-mixing, you get a film that is a watered-down mess. That is not the case with Overlord.
The war scenes are intense. The action scenes are top-notch. The horror elements work, and the gore is brutal.
Overlord is the latest from JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. Directed by Julius Avery (Son of a Gun) and from writers Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant), the movie is an intense, gory war drama set just hours before the D-Day invasion.
A team of paratroopers is tasked with destroying a radio tower the Germans have hidden in a small village church. It has to be destroyed before the allies land on the beach. After most of their team is wiped out before they can even get started, the survivors move to complete their mission, only to find out that the church is hiding something much more nefarious than just a radio tower.
The action and intensity are helped by an extremely talented cast, most of whom I couldn’t have named by name or didn’t recognize out of context, including Jovan Adepo (Fences), Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street), Pilou Asbaek (Game of Thrones), John Magaro (Orange is the New Black), Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and relative newcomer Mathilde Ollivier.
If I had any complaint about OVERLORD, it would be that the plot is fairly predictable (think Captain America if the super-serum created zombies), but I’d be nitpicking.
OVERLORD is balls-to-wall action and fun. The scenes from WWII feel like they could be lifted from an Oscar-worthy war movie. The action scenes could fall in line with some of Tarantino’s films. And the horror and gore effects are good enough to be in any zombie classic. I highly recommend the movie and can’t wait to add it my collection. (Todd Reed)
TAKE FOUR: SURPRISING IN ALL THE BEST WAYS
Overlord is a war movie. Right there I’m 0-1 as I am not a fan of war movies. I went into it hesitantly, because I had only seen the trailer once, and had my reservations because, well, it’s a war movie. Boy, did I learn not to judge a movie by that.
The action starts right away, which I like. I have a tendency to fall asleep easily or lose interest so this is a great start.
A group of American soldiers are bantering back and forth as the war explodes beneath their plane, threatening to drop them at any minute. Between barks from their sergeant, played by the amazing Bookem Woodebine, and jabs from each other, they prepare to jump, reassuring one another and laughing nervously.
The next thing you know, they’re on the ground, and well…I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that I did not fall asleep once, and it held my attention the entire time.
This is one war film heavy on body horror, blood and great deaths, all wrapped in beautiful scenery, a daunting and perfect score and stellar performances from Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Olivier, and John Magaro (the others were amazing as well). Sometimes you have to just give in, and throw away all of your judgements because you might see something you enjoy. (Tiffany Blem)