Overlord is a Nazi/zombie action horror flick that was originally meant to be a part of the Cloverfield Universe, but is now simply a stand-alone original scifi film. I wonder if it had been a Cloverfield would people judge it any differently (read: more harshly), but mostly I'm just glad that it's out there for our viewing pleasure.
|If you saw the trailer nothing will take you by surprise, but if you saw the trailer and still want to see this, that won't matter one bit.|
In my understanding the Cloverfield Universe was merely a way to brand stand-alone films to appeal to the franchise crowd anyway. But that backfired a bit with Paradox, and franchises aren't as hip as they used to be anyway. The only thing I regret is that this movie couldn't have been titled "Cloverlord." But I digress and there's bloodshed and gore to get to. It's WWII, and the night before D-Day, an American troop parachutes into France to blow up a Nazi radio tower at a church. Under said church there's a secret facility where some Nazi "doctor" is doing "experiments." (Every time, those freakin' Nazis...) To say chaos ensures would be a bit of an understatement.
Cool thing about this movie: it's a bigger release than I was expecting, getting lots of attention for looking like it gave a large budget to its violence, and perhaps also for having J.J. Abrams' name attached as a producer, but it has the cast of an indie film. Seriously, there's not one a-list, or even b-list actor, and the only one whose name I knew was Iain De Caestecker, because I watch Agents of SHIELD. I recognized Wyatt Russell from Black Mirror, and John Magaro from Amazon's Jack Ryan, but couldn't manage to place them until I looked them up. That's unusual for a movie to not try and land at least one person with drawing star-power. But Overlord doesn't need it.
|It's got other weirder, grosser things to think about.|
Our hero is Boyce, Jovan Adepo, a Private who's been tossed into the middle of the war and is just trying to stay afloat. A classic everyman type lead. He's a good guy, the kind you want to see make it out okay. Rounding out the troop is Jacob Anderson and Dominic Applewhite, and there's a local French girl who helps them out in their mission (Mathilde Ollivier) and a villain's villain to wreak havoc and make menace (Pilou Asbæk). They all have personalities to give then instant definition, and wind up with more development than I expected them to get in the end. But not much more -- this is a zombie thriller after all and you can't slow down a train like that -- just enough to give a little meat and keep us invested.
The real meat of the matter is the action; the scenes or horror and of crazed science fiction. On that score it delivers all that is promised. It's relentless, almost to the point of being too much so, as it attempts a jump scare one or two times but totally lacks the patience required to build the suspense required for the moment. It's too excited to wait. But no matter, as its main talent lies in what I suppose is scenes of body horror. Suffice to say, it gets super weird, super gross, and pretty darn cool at the same time, and it had my widened eyes glued to the screen. Particularly in one extended scene of, shall we say, metamorphosis.
|I can only imagine that this was fun to do.|
The effects looked excellent, and there was only one shot that looked bad enough to take me out of the movie for a quick second. And the situations the characters get themselves into allow for memorable events easily. I mean, Nazis and zombies -- you'd think the scenarios would write themselves, but they clearly put some effort into getting the story out of the eternal cycle of clichés and it tries its hand effectively at a few different things. It keeps itself concise and focused inside the narrative, and explores the darker, odder corners of bombastic Nazi-punk horror.
No, it's not profound or particularly meaningful -- though it does pause for a small tug on the heartstrings once or twice -- it's there to blow out your eardrums and make as big a mess as possible within its confines, and that it does. It's not even scary. It just channels every effort in to being freaky weird and relentlessly entertaining. I suppose it may be possible to get that as well as they have it and still broaden attention into realms of character and theme, but I can't blame them for playing it a little safe on that score. It certainly makes up for it in blood and explosions, and feels far from boredom if not from safety.
|Horizons could've been expanded, but at the risk of making a mess. And not in a good way.|
There's no new ground broken here, and the only bold experimenting is done by those crazy Nazis, so it's not going to make tremendous waves or anything, but that hardly matters as it accomplishes what it set out to do. It's a crazed, bloody, and bloody fun time, taking advantage of its setting, utilizing the potential of the villains it has ready on hand, and putting a neat twist on the creation of the undead. If that sounds like your cup of tea-- or perhaps I should say: If that sounds like your type of bone-crunching bloodbath -- then Overlord is unlikely to leave you unsplattered.