With equal parts midnight movie humor, disgustingly bloody horror violence, and retro patriotic war movie, “Overlord” could be accused of being overly ambitious. Maybe it should be accused of that. But somehow this splatterfest feels as if it’s lacking initiative in all areas. There’s so much that could’ve been done in the way of subtext and irony, but instead director Julius Avery‘s film feels like a lazy exercise in missed opportunities.
With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers (Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, and John Magaro) drop into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that’s crucial to the invasion’s success. Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a fortified church, the desperate soldiers join forces with a young French villager (Mathilde Ollivier) to penetrate the walls and take down the tower. After they discover a secret medical Nazi lab buried beneath the church, the band of heroes come face-to-face with unstoppable, undead enemies.
The film is at its best when it borrows tropes from old-fashioned war movies instead of modern video games. There’s plenty of classic wartime violence that’s punctuated with zombie horror absurdity. It’s ridiculous, yet not ridiculous enough. If you’re not making a deeper point about something thoughtful and important, at least make it corny enough to amp up the camp.
Everyone is well cast and delivers, including a charismatic leading man turn from Adepo. Russell takes a while to fall into his performance but when he does, he makes every scene better. He’s particularly well-suited for genre films, and I hope he decides to make more. The script is a little bare, especially when it becomes clear screenwriters Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith have no idea how to end their story. The special effects are good, including some truly nauseating gore effects, and the film effectively uses sound as a vehicle for suspense.
Midnight B-movie fans should still enjoy this blood-soaked, zombie-filled version of “Saving Private Ryan.” Just don’t go in expecting too much.