“Overlord” is a gory and brutal war horror flick which may not be for everyone. There are numerous grisly moments of violence and mayhem throughout the film, and I was not entertained enough for recommendation probably because I have been rather tired of its certain horror element, but its overall result is a fairly watchable hybrid genre piece at least.
Mainly set in some rural area of France, 1944, the movie initially comes to us as your typical modern World War II movie. One day before the invasion of Normandy, a bunch of American paratroopers are sent to that area for destroying the German radio tower installed in a local church, but, not so surprisingly, their airplanes are soon heavily attacked the German Army, and we accordingly get a frightening sequence showing how Private Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) manages to survive as going through the perilous chaos in the sky.
Not long after his eventual landing, Boyce comes across his several comrades who were also lucky enough to survive. Led by Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), Boyce and a few other soldiers look for a village where that church in question is located, and then they encounter a young local woman named Chole (Mathilde Ollivier), who does not trust them much at first but eventually leads them to her village.
While hiding in her house, Ford and his soldiers must decide what to do next for accomplishing their mission, but things get more complicated when a German officer named Wafner (Pilou Asbæk) comes into Chloe’s house. As your typical Nazi guy, Wafner is cruel and despicable to say the least, and there is a tense moment when Chloe must be very careful with Wafner for not exposing what she is hiding in the attic of her house now.
After that narrative point, the movie gradually switches itself onto horror mode. When Boyce later happens to come across a German bunker right below that church, he witnesses a very atrocious act committed by German soldiers, and he encounters more terrible things after sneaking into that bunker. While it surely has radio equipments, the bunker turns out to have a secret laboratory, and the laboratory has a number of unspeakable things which may not surprise you much if you are a seasoned horror movie fan. While there is your average mad scientist, there are also several other things including 1) a dismembered body part which still looks alive, 2) many body bags held in the air, 3) a number of chambers which seem to be holding something inhuman, and 4) syringes containing a mysterious serum.
As evoking a certain type of horror films, the movie naturally serves us lots of blood and violence as required. There is a savage scene which shows how far Ford is willing to go for accomplishing his mission, and then there later comes a terrifying moment involved with that mysterious serum, and the movie goes further with its brutal violence during its last act, which is full of gory moments which will surely make you cringe at times.
It is a shame that the screenplay by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith does not provide much substance to engage us enough in terms of story and characters. While the characters in the movie are broad archetypes as expected, they are more or less than genre elements to function in predictable ways, and that is particularly exemplified by the sudden death of a certain supporting character at one point, which happens so predictably that you may chuckle instead of being shocked as much as other characters in that scene.
The main performers in the film do as much as they can for filling their respective roles. While he is stuck with a rather bland character, Jovan Adepo, who previously played the son of Denzel Washington’s character in “Fences” (2016), shows here again that he is indeed a new talent to watch, and Wyatt Russell reveals a more serious side which is a lot different from his comic performances in “Everybody Wants Some!!” (2016) and “Ingrid Goes West” (2017). As the main villain of the movie, Pilou Asbæk, a Danish actor who previously drew our attention via his memorable performances in “A Hijacking” (2012) and “A War” (2015), is as loathsome as demanded, and Mathilde Ollivier manages to hold her own small place as the sole substantial female character in the film.
The movie is directed by Julius Avery, an Australian filmmaker who previously directed “Son of a Gun” (2014). I have not seen that film yet, but “Overload” shows that he is a skillful filmmaker who knows how to build mood and tension, and I admire its technical aspects to some degree. While the movie looks as slick and gritty as required, cinematographers Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner did a good job of establishing grim atmosphere on the screen, and that is further enhanced by Jed Kurzel’s moody score.
On the whole, “Overlord”, which is co-produced by J. J. Abrams, is a well-made genre product accompanied with some nice aspects to be appreciated, but it is not that refreshing in its attempt to mix two bloody and violent genres together. After all, war movies can be as gory and gruesome as horror flicks these days, so there is nothing particularly new for us here, but you may want to watch it anyway – especially if you are a devoted horror genre fan.