“Overlord” stars Jovan Adepo, Jacob Anderson, Pilou Asbæk, Iain De Caestecker, John Magaro, Wyatt Russell, and Bokeem Woodbine. Released on November 9, 2018, the film has a group of American soldiers fighting for survival when they discover that the Nazis are performing terrifying experiments.
The film is directed by Julius Avery, who also directed the 2014 crime thriller “Son of a Gun”, and produced by J. J. Abrams. Here we have a film that mixes two genres together. When you combine a war film with the survival horror genre, you get something that looks like it could be from an unreleased video game. A while back, this film was originally rumored to be the fourth installment in the “Cloverfield” series, but producer J. J. Abrams later denied that claim, resulting in it being an original project. This is one of the films that could go in either direction: It could be an entertaining thrill ride or it could wind up being a generic film version of “Zombies” mode from the recent Call of Duty games. Turns out it’s more along the lines of the former.
Going back to the film’s concept, the story is basically a simple war thriller that has the main characters getting from point A to point B and destroy point B. The only obstacles that stand in their way are the Nazis and their experiments that turn their subjects into super-powered, zombie-like beings. While it does feel more like a war film rather than a war/horror hybrid, the combination between the two genres was nicely-executed, well-shot, and fun to witness. The war aspect of the film didn’t reach the same heights as the likes of “Saving Private Ryan” and “Dunkirk” when it comes to the story and the characters, but it succeeds in making the latter enjoyable and somewhat relatable as well as offering a good amount of tension from start to finish. The only character that I cared for the most was Ed Boyce (played by Jovan Adepo), a member of a paratrooper squad. He’s the type of person who’s willing to do what is right even though his experience inside enemy lines is pretty terrifying, and Jovan Adepo did a very good job at portraying this character. Wyatt Russell was also enjoyable in his role as Corporal Ford, another member of a squad who’s determined to get his mission done without any distractions. I would also like to mention that Pilou Asbæk’s performance as the main antagonist, Wafner, was creepily effective despite the fact that his character is a generic baddie that needs to be stopped. There were also some humorous moments that were able to provide some decent laughs without causing some tonal problems. As for the horror aspect of the film, it was as fun as the war aspect. Ranging from its bleak and authentic atmosphere to its smart uses of jump scares, Julius Avery successfully captured the fear of Nazi human experimentation while maintaining the entertainment quality that it was aiming for in the process. What’s also nice about the horror aspect was that it kept the film tightly budgeted without going a bit too over the top with the zombie element in terms of the gore and the designs. Speaking of designs, I believe that the filmmakers used practical effects to design the disfigured beings. If that’s the case, then bravo to them for going down that route instead of using CGI. It made one of the side effects of human experimentation look and feel more realistic and frightening.
Overall, “Overlord” isn’t a genre-mixing masterpiece, but it serves as an engaging piece of action-horror entertainment for its intended audience. While the film’s story and character depth didn’t match the same emotional heights as the other war classics like “Saving Private Ryan”, it never lost sight at being a fun and authentic experience thanks to its cast, its well-executed blend of war and horror, and its practical effects. It just goes to show that the right amount of creativity and passion can result in successful genre-mashing films that are as enjoyable as their concepts. If you’re a fan of either the war genre or the horror genre or both, I would definitely recommend this one to you.