Tuesday, November 13, 2018

NOW SHOWING: Overlord (2018)

                I had been waiting for this movie for a while.  We don’t get many war movies these days and a war / horror hybrid sounded intriguing.  Actually, the movie is technically a mash-up of the commando raid subgenre and the zombie subgenre.  It came from the mind of co-producer JJ Abrams and was directed by Julius Avery.  It has gotten a major release and some positive reviews.

                A platoon of paratroopers is sent on a dangerous mission to destroy a radio jamming tower that could prevent air support for the D-Day invasion.  Like all other commando mission in war movie history, the mission is crucial to winning the war.  They jump in a totally gonzo scene where their transport plane is hit by anti-aircraft fire.  Only five of the unit (oops, make that four) survive to go after the radio tower.  They are led by the mysteriously laconic Cpl. Ford (Wyatt Russell) and include the everyman Boyce (Jovan Adepo), the wisecracking sniper Tibbet (John Magaro), and the useless combat photographer Chase (Iain De Gaestecker).  They hook up with a local female named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) who will provide refuge in her house and intel on the village and nearby German compound.  It turns out that Chloe is being “kept” by the local evil Nazi Capt. Wafner (Pilou Asbaek).  She has an adorable younger brother Paul who is destined to be put in peril.  Boyce makes an unplanned recon of the German compound and discovers a secret laboratory where an evil scientist is developing a serum to create super-soldiers.  Not surprisingly, the serum has not been perfected yet and has some horrible side effects.  Saving the invasion’s air support becomes secondary to preventing an army of Nazi zombies.

                I don’t watch a lot of horror movies, but I recognize the clichés when I see them.  Specifically, there is a lot of “Aliens” in this movie.  The Chloe/Paul dynamic reminds of Ripley/Newt.  Heck, Chloe even gets to wield a flamethrower. Not that I am complaining.  Who doesn’t love a cinematic chick with a flamethrower?  “Overlord” breaks no new ground in the horror genre.  It also is rife with the standard commando mission clichés.  Mission creep.  Redemption of the jerk Tibbet.  Ticking bomb / save yourself.  Rescue someone before completing the mission.  It is all pretty predictable.  Fortunately, it is done with some verve, although nothing tops the opening scene.  Unfortunately, the monsters are nothing special and are nowhere near as bonkers as those in the similar “Frankenstein’s Army”.  The final act intercuts between your standard action pieces involving explosions and ammo-expenditure and the creepy corridor capers in the compound.  Firearms above ground, freakish forearms below.  There is some suspense and the action is continuous, but it does not have you watching through your fingers. 
                The movie is technically well-done, but it does have a B-movie feel to it.  This is in spite of some effort.  The opening drop scene used a C-47 model on a gimbal with stunt men.  Asbaek’s make-up took five hours.  The acting is clearly B-movie.  I applaud casting an African-American as Boyce (even though it is historically inaccurate to have a black paratrooper), but only if the actor is better than the alternative.  None of these actors will be moving on to A-movies.  The special effects are also B-movie.  It’s fun to see monsters in a war movie, but they did not make me reassess my lukewarm feelings toward horror movies.  I actually have seen a few horror war movies and “Overlord” is in the middle of the pack.  It is not as good as “Dead Snow” or “Dog Soldiers” and if you want to watch a similarly plotted movie, you would be better off with “Frankenstein’s Army”.  



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