J.J. Abrams' period piece horror film Overlord suffers from some slowness in the second act according to most of the first wave of early reviews, but most critics enjoyed the effort to explore a B-movie concept with an A-list budget and execution. Mixing classic war film aesthetics with themes of body horror and good old fashioned monster movies, directly Julius Avery has created a film whose story invites comparison to the Wolfenstein video games while being something wholly original unlike anything Hollywood has ever made before.
Set just before the invasion of Normandy, Overlord centers upon a team of paratroopers who are dropped into Nazi-occupied France to disable a radio tower on top of a local church in anticipation of D-Day. They soon discover that the church contains far more than a radio tower and find themselves facing the creations of a Nazi scientist, who was given free reign to transform his captives into super soldiers for The Third Reich. Naturally, instead of a Nazi version of Captain America, the scientist creates Lovecraftian abominations and it falls to the soldiers to accomplish their mission while preventing the unholy monsters from escaping captivity.
The film saw its world premiere at Fantastic Fest, in anticipation of its November release date. Most of the critics praised Overlord for its commitment to its over-the-top premise, as well as for not shying away from depicting the violence of war or the goriness of the Nazi experiments. They also lauded the movie for how well it combines two seemingly disparate genres and emulates the feeling of both war movies and horror films perfectly. Enjoy this sampling of SPOILER FREE comments (below) from the advance reviews.
John DeFore (no rating) - THR
Pairing some of the spirit of schlocky Nazisploitation fare with a top-flight young cast and better-than-solid filmmaking, the movie is more mainstream that the midnight fare it sounds like on paper, if only by a bit. Horror fans should cheer, as will admirers of the ensemble's up-and-coming cast.
Alan Cerny (8/10) - ComingSoon
Getting the primordial dread of a horror film and the action intensity of a war film to work together is a tough mix, but Avery does it remarkably well... Overlord is all about the Nazi-punching, Nazi-exploding, and Nazi-perforating, with heroes worth rooting for, villains to hiss at, and monsters to tremble at. It’s a full throttle blast, and one hell of an entertaining ride.
Jonathan Barkan (no rating) - Dread Central
Loaded to the brim with action, heavy practical FX, and delightful gore, Overlord is undoubtedly exciting with some truly exhilarating sequences... Overlord gave me exactly what I wanted. Tight, fun, vicious, and brimming with practical FX gore, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a film as gleefully bloody this year.
Haleigh Foutch (B) - Collider
The strongest criticism I can lobby at Overlord is that it seems reluctant to fully commit to the monster bit, wavering between B-movie glory and a straight up soldier story. There are flourishes of fabulously gnarly practical effects and disturbing mad scientist designs but only tastes, never a whole meal.
Matt Donato (8/10) - Slashfilm
Overlord isn’t Call Of Duty: Nazi Zombies…The Movie, for the better. Thunderous WWII recreations are every bit as impressive as Axis bioengineered inhumans that’d make Stuart Gordon blush. Don’t expect zombie waves out the gate, and Julius Avery does take his time to weaponize Hitler’s “Thousand Year Army,” but patience brings reward. Supernatural knuckle-dusting, large-scale French production designs, demented investment into a concept torn from genre fan dreams – this is why horror fans go to the movies. Bold ideas, blackened execution, and a fighting spirit that spits at enemy feet. With Nazi zombies.
Kaleyn Corrigan (B+) - IndieWire
“Overlord” invites low expectations and gleefully rises above them. Yes, this is a B-movie produced with studio resources about American soldiers battling Nazi zombies in WWII. But despite some underdeveloped characters and obvious B-movie tropes, “Overlord” goes beyond the call of duty with a riveting story that digs far deeper than this material usually goes for.
Despite feeling that Overlord did not fully commit to its premise, Foutch did praise the movie for having a strong subplot regarding the ethics of armed conflict and whether or not lines should be crossed in the face of unspeakable evils. Yet several critics pointed to the second act - in which the soldiers debate what to do after discovering what they are facing - as the weakest portion of the movie. There were also numerous complaints regarding too much time being devoted to a Nazi scientist subplot because of how unnecessary it seemed, serving no purpose beyond showing one more reason why the Nazi mad scientist building nightmarish creations in the basement of a church is not a good person.
These complaints are few and far between, however, and the reviews of Overlord thus far have been more positive than negative. Horror movie fans will reportedly be pleased by the practical effects and the level of gore used in depicting the monsters and those who fall prey to them. War film buffs will likely enjoy the twist on the classic "behind enemy lines" formula and how well executed the action sequences are, ignoring that the soldiers are gunning down hulking monsters along with the Nazis. Regular moviegoers will enjoy it as a unique curiosity, sure to liven up the holiday film-going season.
Sources: Various (see links)
- Overlord (2018) release date: Nov 09, 2018