On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers drop behind enemy lines to penetrate the walls of a fortified church and destroy a radio transmitter. As the soldiers approach their target, they soon begin to realize that there's more going on in the Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. Making their way to an underground lab, the outnumbered men stumble upon a sinister experiment that forces them into a vicious battle against an army of the undead.
There was a lot of excitement when this film was first out in cinemas, but I never got around to it because, well, if you watch the trailer you will see it's a World War II film with Nazi Zombies; it's a very original idea. Obviously, that is sarcasm unless you managed to get through life without seeing Blood Creek, Dead Snow, The Frozen Dead, Horrors of War, Oasis of the Zombies, Outpost, or War of the Dead, etc., and never played Call of Duty video games. But now it's out on DVD and Bluray, so what better time to check it out in the comfort of my own home.
Overlord is a war, horror film, directed by Julius Avery and produced by J.J.Abrams; this latter fact was pushed quite a bit in the marketing of the film and led to some consternation that the film might be changed (read: ruined) to make it fit in with Abrams' Cloverfield "franchise" (maybe they could have called it Overfield or Cloverlord), luckily that was not the case.
This is a war film above all, with a more supernatural horror subplot, and Avery has some brilliant direction in the opening scenes of the film. The colour schemes and varying camera angles between the claustrophobic plane interiors and the wide shots of the squadron flying over the channel create a tense and gritty tone right from the start that grips the viewer as they entire the first action-packed set piece of the film. Visually, it almost looks like an oil painting.
There is quite a realistic tone set by the film and its writers. Almost George R. R. Martin-esque, there is no sense of safety for any of the characters that we are introduced to. The downside to this, however, is that the characters are generally one-dimensional, and undergo minimal (if any) character development at all; which means you don't really care whether they die or not. While there is little development of the characters, and no side character story arcs, the middle act of the film largely takes place inside one house and is devoid of action, focusing on character interactions, and building up the antagonists., and trying to insert some ethical and moral conflicts for this ragtag group of soldiers.
I've gotten this far without mentioning the nazi zombies because they are really such a small part of the film. Do not go into this film expecting hordes. This is a film that is trying to build an emotional core to the war genre but still needs a big bad to work they way up to and have a satisfying end. Is there a bigger bad than a World War II Nazi Zombie? It's the movie content that changes Overlord from an A-Movie to a B-Movie that happens to have a good budget. It skirts that line between a serious film and a campy horror, so it's important to manage expectations. Zombie lovers may be disappointed that the filmmakers didn't go all in with this one, whereas war film aficionados may be disappointed that the emotional toll of losing friends on the battlefield was skimmed over. But overall it was balanced well all things considered.
Overlord is potentially one of the most subtle Nazi Zombie films out, which helps it keep a serious, gritty tone for much of the film. Slow paced at times but still has enough going on to keep your interest, even if it isn't for the characters sake.
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