08th Nov2018

‘Overlord’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Iain de Caestecker | Written by Billy Ray, Mark L. Smith | Directed by Julius Avery

overlord-poster

Directed by Julius Avery, WWII action-horror Overlord is produced by J.J. Abrams, which explains why it has suspiciously high production values for what is essentially a rollicking slice of schlock cinema. Mixing impressive gore effects with a pleasingly high splatter factor, it’s something of a treat for genre fans.

Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers) plays Private Boyce, a recently drafted WWII soldier who’s parachuted behind enemy lines and tasked with destroying a communications tower, alongside explosives expert Ford (Wyatt “Son of Kurt” Russell), wise-cracking private Tibbet (John Magaro) and naïve war photographer Chase (Iain de Caestecker). Their mission soon takes an altogether darker turn when Boyce discovers a secret underground lab where a Nazi scientist (Erich Redman) is conducting experiments on local villagers and creating monsters with a super-serum.

The high production values are immediately apparent in a thrilling plane-set opening sequence that combines stunning sound design work and shocking gore effects, setting the tone for what’s to come. Similarly, Avery displays a strong visual sense even before the main plot kicks in, with a series of striking images, ranging from long shots of dead soldiers dangling in trees to a bobbing parachute that looks like a giant jellyfish. On a similar note, Avery clearly knows his way around a bit of body horror, and his nightmarish creations in the science lab are used to suitably creepy effect.

The plot is satisfyingly grisly, frequently feeling like it’s been torn from the pages of a trashy horror comic. It may not be entirely historically accurate, but given its sci-fi premise, it’s easy to forgive little details like the fact that American platoons didn’t mix black and white soldiers.

Adepo makes a compelling lead as Boyce, his empathy and compassion revealed in a telling story about his inability to kill a mouse while at boot camp. Similarly, Russell brings a convincingly battle-scarred edge to Ford, while Danish actor Pilou Asbaek is eminently hissable as Wafner, a despicable Nazi officer who’s kidnapped and tortured by the soldiers. There’s also strong support from newcomer Mathilde Ollivier as Chloe (a plucky resistance fighter who agrees to hide the soldiers in her attic) and scene-stealing child actor Gianny Taufer as her cute little brother, Paul.

Avery’s assured direction keeps things moving at a gripping pace and he has a good eye for staging an action sequence, whether it’s a chase scene, a shoot-out or a punch-up. The finale, in particular, is genuinely thrilling, delivering suspense, shocks, and memorably nasty monster, amid numerous other crowd-pleasing genre staples.

Overlord is strikingly shot throughout, courtesy of cinematographers Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner, who makes strong use of both their outdoor locations and a series of oppressively claustophobic interiors, ranging from the plane to the attic to a lorry full of corpses and an underground tunnel leading to the lab. The film is further heightened by a suitably atmospheric score from Jed Kurzel.

In short, Overlord is a hugely entertaining and superbly made action-horror that ticks all the right schlock boxes.

**** 4/5

Overlord is in UK cinemas now.

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