REVIEW: Overlord (2018)

Theatrical Release Poster – Paramount Pictures

The following is a review of Overlord — Directed by Julius Avery.

I won’t be the first or the last person to make this comparison, but Avery’s Overlord could’ve easily been the basis for a Wolfenstein game, a hugely popular and long-running video game series — the title font on the poster above is even similar to the font used for the latest Wolfenstein-logo. 

Avery’s Overlord takes place the day before D-Day in 1944, and the film follows five American soldiers behind enemy lines in Normandy who, while on a very specific mission, stumble upon a Nazi outpost where soldiers and doctors are conducting experiments on the French locals in an effort to create a serum that can turn the average man into an invincible super soldier.

If you knew nothing about the film before you got into your movie theater seat to see it, then you might have been surprised by the sudden shift in genre. Because the film doesn’t seem particularly supernatural or horror-like in its opening sequences, which just make the film look like another hard-hitting World War Two film with frightened protagonists getting ready to jump out of an airplane.

Then they use their parachutes, land, regroup, and follow a local woman into town wherein they find out that this German outpost, which is managed by a specific villainous Nazi officer (played by Pilou Asbæk), has trouble and secrets lurking beneath the surface.

Then comes the body-horror that immediately made me think of John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is just one element in the many gory, action-filled, and adrenaline-fueled sequences of this film that sometimes presents the stuff of nightmares. The action sequences in Overlord create fully-charged madness in the most entertaining way. The opening sequence is gripping, the film’s violence is gruesome, but the story is uninspired and predictable. Although the film won’t ever surprise you, the violent and bloody action is well worth the price of admission.

Unfortunately, these incredibly intense sequences of violence are mixed with some tediously slow scenes that are inhabited by stereotypical characters that aren’t as engaging as you would like them to be. Some of these intense sequences lead into dull and long scenes that, to me, were whiplash-inducing sudden stops that derailed the film for far too long.

Also, I was disappointed with how undefined the American soldiers were. There is the frightened African-American soldier (played by Jovan Adepo) who is guided by his conscience and not his orders, the soldier who wants to write a book, the soldier who carries a camera around, the soldier with a very pronounced accent, and the silent explosives expert (played by Wyatt Russell) who is driven by his mission and not much else. That is pretty much it. I don’t remember their names or their rank — they are just generic American soldier-types that would be more appropriate for a video game than a major motion picture.

With this film, Avery has shown us that he is capable of balancing both the over-the-top intensity of an action-horror film and the grittier and more realistic intensity of a war film. As such, Avery should earn high marks for this exercise in genre filmmaking.

The characters in and the story of Julius Avery’s Overlord leave a lot to be desired, but all of the genre-elements that the J. J. Abrams-produced film makes use of help to turn this into a gruesome action-horror surprise. Julius Avery’s Overlord is a no-holds-barred Wolfensteinesque action-horror war film that is inhabited by characters whose designs are as thin as cardboard.

7 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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