Published On: Fri, Nov 9th, 2018

A Second World War flick meets full-on zombie horror in Overlord

Written by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith. Directed by Julius Avery. Starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell and Mathilde Ollivier. At GTA theatres. 109 minutes. 18A

The opening black-and-white images of American fighter planes over the Atlantic suggest that Julius Avery’s Overlord is going to be a straight-ahead Second World War film.

The American paratroopers we meet en route to France are as stock as they come, from the battle-hardened Cpl. Ford (Wyatt Russell) to sensitive Pvt. Boyce (Jovan Adepo), a newbie whose mettle is about to be tested. If we didn’t know better, we could be watching Dunkirk, The Big Red One or a hokey old favourite like Midway.

We do know better, of course. At some point, Overlord is going to switch from Saving Private Ryan to full-on zombie-horror flick, with bloody exit wounds, blasted faces, charred flesh and other meaty effects.

We’re watching a genre jack-in-the-box of a movie, something like Predator, a military survival story that turned into a science-fiction story, or From Dusk Till Dawn, a noirish thriller-cum-supernatural action-comedy. Like those movies, Overlord knows the value of keeping a straight face until it’s time to spring the surprise.

Even better, Overlord comes with visceral direction from relative unknown Avery (Son of a Gun) and a slick script by Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant).

One reason we get attached to Boyce is that we’re literally attached to him as he plummets from his plane into Nazi-occupied France, one of the movie’s more dazzling displays of camerawork. The scenes within the home of a pretty French woman, Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who has become the favourite of SS Officer Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), crackle with tension. Even the gun battles have more zip than you might expect from a movie of this ilk.

The fun really starts when Boyce finds his way into a Nazi compound and discovers a laboratory full of zombies: dead German soldiers and French locals who have been brought back to life with a serum that also grants superhuman strength. “A thousand-year Reich,” Herr Wafner helpfully explains, “needs thousand-year soldiers.”

Overlord has a bit of a video-game feel at times, though that just adds to the overall sense of pulpy, gory fun. (Gnarliest joke: a head grenade.)

What does the movie’s title refer to, you ask? There’s a D-Day connection that sews everything together quite nicely. At any rate, best not to ask too many questions.

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TORONTO STAR

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A Second World War flick meets full-on zombie horror in Overlord