Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
It is the eve of D-Day, and the Allies are preparing to invade Europe to destroy Hitler and the Nazi regime. A paratrooper squad is sent in to destroy a radio tower in a small French village that is crucial to the Allies’ plan. Things go wrong almost immediately, and most of the squad is destroyed. But the remaining members – including Boyce (Jovan Adepo) and Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell) – will soon discover that their mission will lead to some rather horrifying discoveries.
Spoiling some of those horrors would be cruel, but suffice to say, they involve Nazis and undead experimentation.
Overlord is the supernatural World War II Thriller we never knew we wanted or needed. For genre fans, this unique mashup of war and horror is a total blast, delivering on its premise and then some. This particular pairing of genres may sound destined for failure, but Director Julius Avery (in only his second Feature) wisely allows the Film to play-out on its war strewn canvas as long as it possibly can, setting the players and stakes into motion. He punctuates these thrilling moments wonderfully, gradually upping the ante and mystery (save for some bad CGI, the Film’s masterful explosive opening is easily one of the best of the year). Only after we get a sense of the real worldness of the Film, does he pull the rug out from under us and pivots into full-on creature feature brutality.
And the creature effects are where Overlord really shines. The Film’s budget is minimal, but the effects work is so outstanding that you may not even notice. Bones are pulverized, blood is spilled in increasingly creative ways, flesh is charred and one character’s face becomes literal nightmare fuel. All of these elements and more are each magnificently realized on-screen, bringing a whole new meaning to the horrors of war. The level of violence here is surprisingly gnarly and positively grotesque. Even the most hardened gore fans may cringe at some of the carnage Avery unleashes on his Cast. Much of the destruction does not happen until the Third Act, but once it kicks into high gear, it does not let up.
While the Film has more than a passing resemblance to the modern Wolfenstein Video Game Series, my main concern is with Overlord’s Second Act. It does a great job building up tension, but fails at really developing the characters. They all put in effective work, especially Pilou Asbæk as lead villain Wafner, and Russell, who channels the spirit and tone of his famous father rather brilliantly as Corporal Ford. But all of the details we gleam about the small band of characters are surface level at best, and one-dimensional at their worst. We understand the stakes of the mission almost immediately – why spend so much time puttering around in the Second Act if you are not going to let the Actors truly breathe life into their characters?
Slogs aside, Overlord is a brutal Cult Classic in the making, filled with gnarly violence and some of the best creature work in recent memory. For genre and Horror fans, the Film is a must-see. I had a smile on my face through the entirety of the Third Act. How often can you say that for any film?
Paramount Pictures Canada release OVERLORD on Friday, November 9, 2018.