A few years ago, there was a fad among genre filmmakers to create Grindhouse movies in which they would try to emulate the style of exploitation movies from the ‘70s. Most of these films, like “Grindhouse” and “Machete,” felt hollow — their idea of Grindhouse was adding grainy filters and bad acting.
“Overlord” is the best attempt to date, making an intense and badass monster movie that doesn’t sacrifice fun for cheap tricks.
On the eve of D-Day, a squad of American soldiers were tasked with taking down a radio tower before the invasion begins. After an traumatizing rough landing, the surviving members begin to explore the tower and discover a secret Nazi lab underneath.
Director Julius Avery does a great job at making the film look and feel stylish without being overbearing. There are many one-takes that immerse the viewer into the scene rather than call attention to itself, and the general look of the film can be striking at points with great uses of lighting and special effects.
Avery shows off his skills almost immediately with “Overlord” beginning as an intense and often horrific war film. The opening scene of the squad’s airplane getting shot down proves to be just as terrifying as the supernatural horrors later on. It sets the stage perfectly by skillfully introducing characters before letting all hell break loose.
From there, the war elements begin to take a back seat for the Nazi zombie section, which is just as strong, even if tonally conflicting. The transition from the dark exploration of war’s effects on individuals into entertaining splatterhouse isn’t as smooth as some might hope, but there is horror within the confusion as one of the squad members first explores the lab.
When “Overlord” becomes a monster film, it fully embraces the nastiness of the whole affair, showing grotesque mutations and spilling copious amounts of blood. These effects are gloriously cringe-inducing — they’re mostly practical, making the possibly silly imagery genuinely terrifying at points.
The disgusting parts are impressive, showing severed heads and bones sticking out of people as flesh drips from their oily, undead faces. It’s a sight to behold and helps carry the entertaining atmosphere.
This is also when the movie becomes more fun without becoming obnoxious, goofy or losing its original dark tone. Action scenes are still intense, and the characters are likable enough to make it easy to invest in them. Also, it’s impossible not to mention how cathartic it is to see Nazis eviscerated in the last act.
Despite the simple premise and gory nature, the performances are surprisingly good, elevating the simplicity into something more engaging. Jovan Adepo as the lead character, Boyce, has the best non-verbal acting, though he’s not a pushover during the emotional moments. Wyatt Russell as Ford is a stoic and machismo incarnate, and Mathilde Ollivier’s Chloe brings a real emotional core to the film.
I find it difficult to write this review, not because there isn’t enough good stuff to talk about, because there most certainly are endless great things about this movie. The issue is that it is gloriously straightforward, and intentionally so. It’s a simple monster movie designed to entertain with its shocking gore, fierce action scenes and characters lacking complexity.
“Overlord” is simply a great time at the movies, and one you’ll want to re-experience at home. This film has all the makings of a cult classic, one that you should not miss out on — see it big, see it loud.