A full-on blend of war drama and horror epic, Overlord is often an intense experience, even if the first act’s startlingly visceral combat sequences are rather more terrifying than later horror elements.
Originally given an R Rating here for its graphic violence, the film was to be cut by a minute or so by Paramount in the hope that it would be awarded the more commercial-friendly MA. Until, of course, someone rightly thought that only horror fans would actually be going to see the thing in the first place and they would positively revel in its R Rated excesses.
Pretty much the day before D-Day a squad of paratroopers is on its way to destroy a radio tower in a German church, and there’s a little pleasingly familiar characterisation before it all goes to Hell. Boyce (Jovan Adepo) is our obvious protagonist, but there’s also Tibbett (John Magaro), Dawson (Jacob Anderson), photographer Chase (Iain De Caestecker) and others, all under the command of the no-nonsense Sarge (Bokeem Woodbine).
The plane is shot down and we follow Boyce from the fire and chaos as he parachutes into air full of smoke and explosions, nearly drowns and is then strafed by machine-gun fire. It’s a sequence that almost (but not quite) matches the opener from Saving Private Ryan, with top-notch editing and sound design making it extremely frightening and the rest of the movie slightly suffering by comparison.
A group of survivors must team up with an angry French woman named Chloe (Mathilde Olliver), who has a little 8 year old brother (Gianny Taufer) and a sick Aunt who is eventually revealed to have been experimented upon by some unethical Nazis (although are there any other kind?). Her monstrous appearance reminds us that this is actually meant to be a horror movie, which by this point might have slipped our minds after all that’s already happened.
It transpires that the nearby Nazis have been using a mysterious liquid to reanimate the dead to create ‘Thousand Year Soldiers’ – or, as they’re better-known in the genre, Nazi zombies. However, these guys don’t actually get to do much besides run around the secret laboratory screeching or stand about looking puzzled, as the chief villain turns out to be SS Hauptsturmführer Wafner, who’s played (after five hours of make-up) by acclaimed Danish actor Pilou Asbæk with much sneering and loud speeches about the majestic Reich.
Directed by Julius Avery and with music by the Gawler-born Jed Kurzel, this has a vaguely odd structure and features its undead Nazis aren’t quite as scary as those found in cheaper classics like Shock Waves and Dead Snow. But the first third is so powerful that it doesn’t really matter at all.
And for further Nazi zombie adventures please watch Zombie Lake, Night Of The Zombies and Oasis Of The Zombies – or, on second thoughts, don’t!
Overlord (R) is in cinemas from December 6