In the relentless legacy the likes of Dead Snow and Inglourious Basterds fashioned before it, Overlord carries on that traditioned and insightful credo that the only good Nazi is a dead one. Directed by Australian filmmaker Julius Avery and produced by untrustworthy J.J. Abrams’ studio Bad Robot, one could at first, perhaps, make the terrifying assumption of another *shudders* Cloverfield extension from one of the film’s posters, suspiciously reminiscent of the one for last year’s failed Cloverfield Paradox, and from the plain fact that J.J. Abrams likes to fuck with us for a living. Dead Nazis, giant space monsters – J.J. could work something out there, couldn’t he?
Thankfully, in its 110-minute, run the biggest takeaway one might be able to muster from the film is simply that Nazis, for all the unimaginable suffering and evils inflicted by them throughout history, deserve to be shot up silly with round after round of machine gunfire and burnt all to fuck and maimed beyond recognition – and it’s still fun as ever for us to watch that happen. It’s an easy means for the end product of an exceedingly violent, exceedingly entertaining horror film, and Overlord hits its brutal, blood-soaked mark, even if that’s all the film does, or really needs to do.
It’s the eve of D-Day over the skies of Europe, as American paratroopers are tasked with destroying a German radio tower in a small, Nazi-occupied French village. Awaiting anxiously on the plane are our protagonists, who can be mostly distinguished by faces we recognize from a smattering of small bits in other popular movies and television shows. These include faces belonging to Corporal Ford (a brooding Wyatt Russell), Tibbet (John Magaro, Orange is the New Black), Dawson (Jacon Anderson, Game of Thrones), Chase (Iain De Caestecker, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite) Sergeant Eldson (Bokeen Woodbine, FX’s Fargo), and our hero, Private Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo, The Leftovers). With ninety minutes left until they reach their destination, the plane is overtaken by bullets and bombs and is shot down before the team can safely make it to the ground.
Boyce, Ford, Tibbet, and Chase touch down in France with all arms and limbs intact, and on their trek to the village, they encounter a plucky young French woman, Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), handy dagger in tow. It is not before nearly killing one another, with Boyce building her trust by showing off his French language skills, that she finally relents and guides them to her home in the withered village. Chloe lives in a state of perpetual terror with her little brother, 8-year-old, baseball-loving Paul (Gianny Taufer), and their aunt, gravely ill and emitting an endless loop of disturbing moans from within her room down the hall. Chloe’s aunt, it is revealed, was just one of the many victims taken and experimented on by the Nazis within their secretive compound in a nearby church – the church that houses the very radio tower the soldiers are seeking.
Chloe allows the men to seek shelter in her home as they plan the best course of action for their coup. After checking the scheduled rendezvous point at the compound, the men hide in Chloe’s attic while she endures a routine inspection by Nazi soldiers. When the man at the head of the inspection, an SS by the name of Captain Wafner (Pilou Asbæk, Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, and who apparently has a knack for portraying unrepentantly slimy degenerates), attempts to assault Chloe, Boyce and Ford attack him and take him as prisoner in the attic. It is while the other men keep an eye on Wafner that Boyce attempts to reach the compound and ends up in a truck full of dead bodies en route inside. There, he catches glimpses of the body horrors the Nazis are inflicting upon the villagers, and understands in this series of traumatizing events that there is much more to their mission now than just destroying a tower.
Overlord is, to put it bluntly, schlock in its purest form; but that’s all we could ever crave from it anyway. There are shots of bodies twisting and contorting with innards sticking out of places that they don’t belong; Nazi men with half of their faces shot off but still talking shit; heads uttering desperate cries of “S’il vous plait? S’il vous plait?” while stuck crudely through a metal stick and supported only by a spine and barely any lower half; blood spurts and glistens, bones crack, cheesy one-liners fly; there’s a single instance of cannibalism, and most importantly of all, Nazis getting blown to absolute smithereens. It’s a movie that doesn’t require you to do very much thinking beyond, perhaps, wondering how that aforementioned talking head supported by only a spine and half a body can still continue speaking if it doesn’t have any of its vocal chords attached (a lot of thinking, actually), but, otherwise, Overlord just wants you to have a good time.
It also wants you to relish in the delight that is watching Nazis get the justice that they deserve –not exactly the justice that they received, but a part of never forgetting about the atrocities that they committed is being able to take their tainted legacy and twist it in a way that feels just a little bit more cathartic. The magic of storytelling and of cinema is knowing that the Nazis got their asses absolutely handed to them all those years ago, but being able to take that knowledge and make it so that the suffering we can witness them endure is tenfold.
“We’re in the killin’ Nazi business” Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine once said in Inglourious Basterds. That business continues to yield quite an entertaining profit, indeed.
By Brianna Zigler
Brianna Zigler is a graduate in Film-Video and Writing from Penn State University with big plans and not a lot of planning. She is passionate about film and writing about film and also talking about film but can’t really decide which she wants to do with her life, but it’s not a big deal (that’s future Brianna’s problem). She loves horror, absurdism, Twin Peaks, is a die-hard Wes Anderson fan, and currently has almost 250 movies in her watchlist. Her favorite films are What We Do in the Shadows, A Serious Man, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Swiss Army Man, and Suspiria. She met Greg Sestero once and it was weird. You can follow her on Twitter @briannazigs