With a premise that is essentially Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies – The Movie, Overlord leans heavily into its video game influences, for better and (mainly) worse. One part World War II story, one part schlock horror, and featuring all the most predictable clichés of each part, Overlord looks like it would be fun to play, but is often instead frustrating to watch.
After a cracking opening scene of a paratrooper squad being decimated as their plane comes under heavy fire, we’re introduced to the survivors and their mission: bringing down a signal-jamming tower in a French village, to allow D-Day to go ahead. There’s the soft-hearted new recruit Boyce (Jovan Adepo), the gruff and haunted leader Ford (Wyatt), and all the other archetypes you’d expect. Pretty swiftly, the genre pivots after Boyce discovers a secret underground lab where the Nazis are conducting horrific experiments to create super-soldiers.
Every line of dialogue is War Screenplay 101, but the idiotic decision-making of every character is straight out of the horror cliché handbook. With the exception of the pragmatic Ford, everyone is constantly putting themselves and others in mortal danger for no logical reason, to the point where you kind of hope they die just to learn a lesson. The whole thing is played weirdly straight too – this is Nazi mad science; you’re allowed, almost obliged, to include some camp.
Director Julius Avery conjures some impressively ominous shots in the first half-hour, and the monster action is suitably gruesome and intense, but it’s just flashy compensation for a script that is not pulling its weight.
Even after a rewrite by The Revenant scribe Mark L. Smith, Overlord doesn’t earn its self-seriousness. Its premise is battling the tone throughout, a fight that neither side ends up winning. A cacophonous, sporadically entertaining mess.
CAST: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Jacob Anderson, Dominic Applewhite, Pilou Asbæk, Iain De Caestecker, John Magaro, Mathilde Ollivier, Bokeem Woodbine
DIRECTOR: Julius Avery
WRITERS: Mark L. Smith, Billy Ray
SYNOPSIS: The story of two American soldiers behind enemy lines on D-Day.