Review: Pulpy 'Overlord' a welcomely gruesome WWII splatterfest

November 9, 2018

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures 

This is how you execute B movie carnage at its finest.

 

The setting is 1944: Soldiers and troopers are storming into France on the heels of World War II. They’re dropping in via bomber aircraft carriers, and plan to slay any Nazi that stands in their way.

 

“Overlord” - the latest film from Bad Robot, the JJ Abrams led production company - seems routine until circumstances spiral onto a path that might not be expected. Putting a sadistic twist on the mad experiments scientists performed on civilians during the war. What lies beneath the surface is probably more disgusting than you could imagine (though, Nazis themselves are just that). Are the filmmakers offering a parable here? Perhaps.

 

And so begins director Julies Avery’s riff on the vintage grindhouse noir classics we loved. At the films moral center is Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo from “Fences”) - and through history buffs might squirm about a black man standing at the forefront of this platoon because of “historical accuracy,”  they should be so quick to remember that monsters didn't lurk beneath churches either.

 

Boyce is shacked up with the normal commeradie of war movie cliches. Including demolitions expert Ford (Wyatt Russell - perfectly casted here) who becomes the highest ranking official after their aircraft crash lands deep into enemy territory, killing half the team. Their mission is a familiar one: reach a radio tower above church ground and blow the sucker into smithereens. And probably kill some Nazi’s along the way.

 

The rush of these initial scenes are exciting (the opening five minutes are exhilarating), especially when the squad crosses paths with the feisty Chole (Mathilde Ollivier) and confines shelter inside her local farmhouse with her younger kid brother and sickly aunt. But what’s a WWII thriller without some mutilated and grotesquely looking creatures hiding in the shadows.

 

That’s presumably what happens as Boyce tries to infiltrate the enemy’s underground laboratory nearby. In the process, discovering secrets that likely should never seen the light of day. The first of such devices is a serum that’s contents invoke different reactions depending who is on the receiving end. I’m no physician, but I’d recommend not upping the dosage. Safe to assume that results may vary.

 

"Overlord" is like “Inglorious Bastards” meets “Saving Private Ryan” meets “Resident Evil” and it’s exactly as advertised. It's gory without being senseless, and a slick WWII thriller that transforms into a gritty monster of the week flick. It definitely gains some milage from the young cast (among them John Margaro as the cheesy hard ass weapons handler, Ian De Caestecker whose character prefers to photograph the combat rather than fight in it, and Dominic Applewhite’s Rosenfeld who barely makes it out with his life.)

 

Written by Billy Way and Mark L. Smith, with solid cinematography by Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner, “Overlord” is a kooky riff on the “Re-Animator” formula. Giving plenty of B movie splatterfest carnage that’s welcomed and never out of touch with the cartoonishly evil villians on display (in this case it's the ghoulish Pilou Asbaek hamming it up.) Even though you might reach for your gaming controller out of habit, “Overlord” still presents a fuzzy focus of what it’s like to play on the same team. Zombies be damned.

 

Grade: B

 

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