‘War makes monsters of men.’ In Julius Avery’s Overlord, this adage is taken to its logical conclusion as a bunch of evil Nazis, occupying a small village in France, carry out a series of rather nasty experiments on the local population. This canny blend of war movie and 18 certificate body horror is undoubtedly a mash-up, but such beasts are rarely as well handled as this, or as downright entertaining. Indeed, here’s a movie that hits the ground running and goes galumphing gloriously along to its final blood-drenched moments.
Of course, because of the presence of JJ Abrams as executive producer, the film was widely expected to be a fourth instalment in the Cloverfield franchise, but I’m happy to say the C-word is never mentioned here and it’s just as well, since this has its own agenda and fulfils it very effectively.
It’s 1945, the eve of D Day, and we join Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) in a crowded transport plane, preparing to bale out over German-occupied France. Boyce and his fellow paratroopers have been tasked with an important mission. They are to destroy a church steeple in the aforementioned French village, which the Germans are currently using as a communications centre. The success of Operation Overlord depends on its timely destruction (so no pressure there). But within minutes of the film’s start, the plane is taking on fire and, in a totally immersive and nerve-shredding sequence, all hell breaks loose. Boyce barely escapes with his life.
A little later, approaching the village accompanied by a few other survivors, including hard-bitten veteran, Ford (Wyatt Russell), Boyce encounters Chloe (Mathilde Olivier), a young woman struggling to survive under the predations of the ruthless Nazi Commandant Wafner (Pilou Asbaek). She takes the American soldiers into hiding at her aunt’s house… but what exactly is happening in the compound that houses that all-important church tower? Why are so many prisoners being taken there? And why is Chloe’s aunt making all those strange noises in her room?
The gradual metamorphosis from action film to horror movie is effectively done, pushing the envelope a little further with each new revelation, until our disbelief is well and truly suspended – and the very real horrors of war seem to lend extra gravitas to the fantasy elements of the story. The presence of deadly explosive charges adds an extra layer of suspense to the final furlong. It’s breathless stuff. More squeamish viewers should be warned that there are scenes here that may test their resolve to the limit, but those who fancy a B-Movie plot married to A-Movie production values are going to have a whale of a time with this. I know I did.
That said, anyone scheduled to undergo a medical procedure in the near future might want to give this one a miss. It gets very messy.