Illustration by Sadie Winkelstein
On the eve of D-day, tender hearted soldier Ed Boyce is sent with his squad to Nazi occupied France to destroy a German radio tower in a church. After hiding out in the home of a local woman named Chloe, Boyce discovers that the Nazis are using the church to do experiments on local villagers, turning them into zombies. When the soldiers attempted to infiltrate it, bloody violence ensues.
Though initially presenting itself as a war film, Overlord reveals its true colors as horror when the undead are introduced about halfway through. This genre churns out a lot of lower tier movies, but Overlord stands out due to its original premise as a zombie movie in a World War II setting. Nevertheless, it still fell prey, at times, to weak screen writing and cliches.
Although I’ve never seen a movie with this concept before, on a smaller scale, the dialogue and characters were pretty unoriginal. Nazi villains have already been portrayed, much more skillfully, in films like Inglorious Bastards or Schindler’s List.
All the characters are written pretty blandly, but to be fair the bar is set a lot lower for this aspect of a horror movie. The main objective is to be scary, which I think was accomplished. Considering the Nazism, I thought the fear would be more psychological. However, Overlord used good old fashioned gore with a dash of suspense to wig me out. I covered my eyes and squirmed in my seat on several occasions. The key to this movie’s violent scenes is that they are slow and realistic. Characters are often forced to hurt themselves in some way, for example pulling a knife out after being stabbed. What’s so horrible about these moments is that they’re not quick or sudden, and you know what’s about to happen in advance, giving you even more time to cringe with revulsion.
At times I was truly frightened by the undead in Overlord. The classic drooling grey zombie from films like Night of the Living Dead is sluggish, stupid, and altogether unthreatening. However, in Overlord I saw something much more menacing.
The zombies come from a testing facility, so we see them in various stages of mutilation from pallid, veiny people, to fleshy supernatural creatures, to sentient heads. These guys were scarier than your run of the mill zombie because they were astute, strong, and even fast, posing an actual threat to the characters.
Overlord combined two genres into a fresh and frightening concept, although it sometimes relied on hackneyed plot devices. Although it was no masterpiece, it was a very entertaining film overall.