OVERLORD: Modern era war movies depict the horror of combat and the toll it takes from the human psyche. But the horror film genre finds its way into this nihilistically entertaining work that starts out with one of those “men on a mission” plots from ‘60s classics like THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) or THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961). The assignment to be carried out is the destruction of a Nazi radio jamming tower in an occupied French village prior to the D-Day invasion in World War II. After a fittingly chaotic and well-staged aerial battle, the few surviving G.I.s which include a naïve, black soldier (Jovan Adepo) and a conflict hardened explosives expert (Wyatt Russell) literally hit the ground running since they’re surrounded by enemy troops. After a few more casualties and narrow escapes, they discover that Nazi scientists are resurrecting dead people with a mysterious red serum that literally transforms them into a master race of nearly indestructible super soldiers. I have to give screenwriters Billy Ray (CAPTAIN PHILLIPS) and Mark L. Smith (THE REVENANT) kudos for fusing two dissimilar genres, while respecting their conventions, without the kind of narrative transitions that make it feel like this movie has gone over the top until the rapidly paced climax is reached when it absolutely revels in going over the top. It’s good, bloody fast-paced fun that’s well-directed by Julius Avery (SON OF A GUN) with an assist from Jed Kurzel’s pulse quickening musical soundtrack. The visual effects are splendid and the gruesome make-up has to be considered Oscar worthy. The cinematography utilizes dynamic and unique camera angles that move the non-stop action along without pausing for any unnecessary breaths. The soldiers are all fairly clichéd types we’ve met before in previous war flicks along with the Nazis who are portrayed as the very monsters they’re attempting to create with no humanity in sight. Although the tone feels as though it’s playing it straight, I can’t help but feel that the filmmakers had their tongues firmly in their cheeks by introducing elements of classic war films to B-movie gross out gorefests like John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982) which, by the way, starred Russell’s father Kurt. Yeah, it’s cinematic junk food but sometimes a Big Mac with a moderately sized bag of Doritos can taste awfully good. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+
CLOSING CREDITS: The horror storyline in OVERLORD owes a lot of its creative plot ideas to a black comedy/thriller called RE-ANIMATOR (1985). Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, the plot follows a cocky medical student (Jeffrey Combs) who manufactures a green serum (As opposed to OVERLORD’S red one) that resurrects a morgue school cadaver (David Gale) with predictably disastrous results. The film has attained the status of a cult classic and is best remembered for a hilarious sex scene involving a lustful severed head and the med student’s girlfriend (Barbara Crampton). Enough said.