OVERLORD, the latest film from Australian director Julius Avery (Son of a Gun), is an example of horror at its finest incorporating the ever-satisfying visual of Nazi’s being punched with the dial turned to 10 for extreme bloodshed. The film stars Jovan Adepo (HBO’s The Leftovers), Wyatt Russell (Everybody Wants Some!!), Mathilde Ollivier (The Misfortunes of François Jane), and Pilou Asbæk (HBO’s Game of Thrones).
Taking place in 1944 on the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers are deployed to Normandy to carry out a crucial mission vital to defeating Nazi Germany’s control over Western Europe. As they make their way to a radio tower located in a church, they run across a French woman named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) who offers to help them and keep them out of sight as they regroup. It’s then that the surviving paratroopers learn that within the Church, Nazi experiments are being performed on the villagers of the small town. What was supposed to be a simple military operation quickly becomes a terrifying fight for survival against not only the Nazi military but of the unfathomable horrors that await in the bowels of the decrepit church.
Let me start by saying, wow, what a year for horror! Whether it’s been more surreal art-house horror (hello, Suspiria) or the revitalization of one of horror’s most iconic figures (Welcome home, Michael), it’s been a year in which horror has once again reigned supreme. To add to the mixture of films that has carried the weight of anticipated hype is the war horror film, OVERLORD. From the moment I saw the first image, I was hooked and though at the time I knew very little about what the film entailed, I had a sense that this movie was going to live up to whatever expectations I was about to set. I’m happy to report that OVERLORD most certainly lived up to the hype and has easily situated itself in my top 3 favorite films of the year.
From the moment the film opens, audience goers are thrust into a viewing experience filled with tension, abject horror (both supernatural and earthly), and copious amounts of gore and carnage. I found myself gripping the arm rests of my seat in out right terror from the unfolding mayhem that happened just in the first 15 minutes, and believe me when I say, it’s a punch to the gut. It had nothing to do with the supernatural, instead focusing on the emotions and bone-chilling realization that these characters face when realizing that they may not come back from war alive. As much as I love the movie as a whole, those 15 minutes are worth the price of admission alone and should be seen on the big screen.
What I appreciated most about this film was how realistic it felt, outside of the supernatural elements. Case in point, our protagonist Boyce, played by Jovan Adepo, felt relatable and it was easy to become attached to his storyline because he came across as one of us. Even as we watch him progress into the soldier he needs to be, there was never any moment that made me question his transformation because it was believable. Sure, there are some incomprehensible scenarios happening all around him, but his character was deeply grounded in reality, making it very easy to root for him. That can be said for all the actors performances, as this cast was brilliantly assembled so that each character either balanced out their opposing adversary or had genuine chemistry which made it easier to believe that these characters cared for each other’s well-being. I can’t write this review without commenting on Pilou Asbæk portrayal of Nazi officer Doctor Wafner. Dear God did I hate his character with every ounce of my being as he was the epitome of a sadistic individual who exuded pride in ending the lives of so many innocent people. Pilou Asbæk did an outstanding job with his performance but man, I really fucking hated that character and everything he stood for.
Let’s be honest though, you aren’t reading this review because you want to know if the characters got along well, you want to know about the carnage. Well, if you are a fan of gore than you are in for a real treat because this movie has that in spades. Whether it be the injuries and/or death caused by warfare or the experiments being performed on innocent villagers, there’s enough butchery and disturbing visuals that even the most hardened gore fans will walk away satisfied. To me, the gore wasn’t the most impressive aspect of this film, as I felt that landed on the building of tension and emotional destruction, but I did appreciate some of the more unique deaths and transformation. Which brings me to the next topic: zombies. You’ll read a lot of reviews that call OVERLORD a zombie movie, but to me, I didn’t look at this way. I would align this more with films such as Re-Animator before categorizing it within the zombie subgenre.
I really want to continue talking about this film, and I could go on and on and dive deeper into the historical context but I think by now you have a pretty solid understanding of what you are about to get into with OVERLORD. Without a doubt, you’ll want to see this movie on the big screen to appreciate the incredible cinematography by Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner. OVERLORD is a film that will continuously punch you in the face with no regards to your feelings until you are a bloody lump on the ground, and you know what? You’ll kind of enjoy it. Make sure to check out OVERLORD when it’s released in theaters this Friday, November 9.
OVERLORD has been rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and brief sexual content.