Over 60 years after the fact, there is no shortage of entertainment based on World War 2. This unfortunate period of world history is explored in nearly all forms of media, including films, television, comic books, novels, and more. While narrative driven dramas such as HBO’s Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan abound, there are also a plethora of horror movies based on this bloody conflict. Rapist and murderer William Tecumseh Sherman said, “War is hell,” and what better way to encapsulate that hell than by venturing into the horror genre.
Director Julius Aver’s Overlord is a film that seeks to exploit one of the unfortunate historical occurrences during WW2, Nazi human experimentation. Sadly, details of these human experiments are given in various sources. Human experimentation was done by the Nazi’s in order to gain information supposedly useful for science and medicine. For example, to figure out ways to treat hypothermia, it was common for victims to be submerged into water as cold as 21 degrees for up to hours. The vile scientists would document the effect of the cold on the human body, and they would also test different methods of rewarming. Countless people died in the process.
In Overlord, we follow a paratrooper squad tasked with the destruction of a German radio tower in an old church in France. When their plane is shot down, the remaining survivors must do what they need to in order to perform the task at hand. They come across a young woman who lives in the village where the radio tower is located. She allows them to use her home as a base, and the mission begins. After capturing a high ranking Nazi official, the paratroopers soon become privy to the fact that there is a lab doing human experiments in the church. After torturing the Nazi, they find out that the scientists have developed a serum with the ability to raise the dead and create an army of superhuman soldiers known as Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich. I won’t spoil the rest, but we see the team doing their best to defeat the Nazi’s and their new race of soldiers, as well as trying to destroy the radio tower.
From the opening scene to the closing scene, Overlord is essentially nonstop action. As you’d expect in a WW2 movie, there are multitudes of explosions and a ton of gun fighting. The few breaks in the action allow the viewer some time to recover, however these scenes are typically intense in their own right. The events of the film take place over a short period of time (something like 4-6 hours), and the pacing of the film was excellent. A few well placed moments of comedic relief perfectly complimented the edge of your seat action, and you really feel yourself rooting for the protagonists (although let’s face it, when the antagonists are Nazis, it doesn’t take much).
What made this film a lot of fun for me was the special effects. So much modern (mainstream) horror is loaded with passable CGI effects, but there were a ton of practical effects in Overlord. While you didn’t see as many of the super soldiers as I would have liked, they were excellently crafted. Although they bear a close resemblance, these aren’t zombies in the strictest sense of the word. They are just horribly disfigured mutants created for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc. The gore was well placed and not cheesy. The effects team did a great job capturing the horror of human experimentation.
For the most part, I have learned my lesson and do not go to the movie theater with high expectations. I didn’t think I’d hate Overlord, but I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. This film is a solid entry into the WW2 horror catalog. It’s entertaining story, nonstop action, and excellent special effects added up for a fun time at the theater. I do believe this is a film I will buy on home video when released. While it’s box office numbers are disappointing, we have yet another piece of evidence that, unlike the Nazi super-soldiers, the mainstream horror genre is not dead.