‘Overlord’ review: J.J. Abrams’ nazi zombie story is a must see

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This is a spoiler-free review of Overlord.

Assuming The Grinch doesn’t go very differently than I thought, Overlord is the only movie in theaters this weekend that will have you crying over the death of a character and then rooting for that character to die a second time in 60 seconds flat.

The J.J. Abrams produced WWII horror/action flick, originally rumored to be an addition to the Cloverfield series, doesn’t exactly bring a new concept to the table. Nazi zombies (or zombie Nazis, depending on your regional dialect) have been around for a while.

Overlord takes that tried-and-true concept and turns it up to eleven—raising the undead Third Reich to once again terrorize victims, but this time with a unique flair all its own. 

Set on the eve of D-Day in German occupied France, Overlord chronicles the fight of five American paratroopers and their badass French ally as they attempt to escape the clutches of one terrifying villain. What begins as a modern take on a classic war tale quickly devolves into a hellish nightmare wrought with horrific medical experiments and gruesome altercations with its patients for whom help is already too late. 

Here’s just a small fraction of the many reasons you need to see Overlord ASAP.

This shenanigan is just bananas 

In a world where Gritty the mascot is beloved by all, it’s difficult to be truly surprised by much. Luckily, Overlord delivers in spades when it comes to subverting expectations. When you expect a zig, they almost always zag. From surprise comeback scares to really unsettling visual imagery, jarring weirdness lurks behind every corner.

It delivers sympathetic characters quickly and effectively

Give a tiny French boy a baseball and boom. Done. Emotional connection locked and loaded. 

Overlord knows you need to care about its characters to get invested in the action, but it doesn’t waste time on sob stories. Similar to the awesome introductory vignettes of Halloween, each character meet and greet is laced with heartwarming touchstones that will leave you rooting for our heroes to make it to the end; then it’s back to the zombie slaying.

In the words of Adele: "But I set fire to the... zombie?"

In the words of Adele: “But I set fire to the… zombie?”

Image: peter mountain / paramount pictures

The narrative represents people of color and women

Pretty much all WWII flicks focus in on a bunch of white guys. Overlord does that too (shout out to Wyatt Russell and John Magaro, both national treasures), but it also spotlights a person of color and a woman amidst the genre-typical action.

Played by Jovan Adepo and Mathilde Ollivier respectively, Boyce and Chloe are Overlord‘s main heroes. Boyce, one of the paratroopers, is a descendant of a Haitian immigrant and Chloe is a French woman caring for her family during the occupation. 

Once again subverting expectations, Overlord manages to avoid well-known pitfalls of horror representation. To wit, when you think Chloe is about to be saved by a man? She gets a flame thrower. Hell to the yes. 

Even the zombies are compelling

Through the years, science fiction has given us many different types of zombies. You’ve got your speedy scarys, your slowy walkies, your righty tighties, your lefty loosies—okay, I don’t know all of the official names

What I do know is that I love whatever type of zombies Overlord has. They’re like evil Captain America meets an over-microwaved Hot Pocket. Spectacular. 

The gore is palatable and well-placed 

Not gonna lie to you. This movie is super gross. That poor woman’s head (you’ll know it when you see it) is something I will likely never forget. 

However, I would contend that nearly all of it is tactfully placed and effectively executed. Unless you’re particularly squeamish, I doubt you will find yourself cringing too excessively. 

But maybe cool it on the theater snacks… just in case.

Everything is just gorgeous

It’s rare that seeping wounds looks pretty. And yet, here we are. 

Many of Overlord‘s scenes are built in a way that screams graphic novel inspiration. Notably, the opening sequence of Overlord is visually stunning. 

As our story’s soldiers crash land into enemy territory, each frame depicting their terror looks beautiful enough to slap on a post card. (Although, those would be some very upsetting postcards.)

Out of fear or sheer admiration, these images are going to stick with you.  

The combat isn’t overdone

Overlord‘s heroes know they aren’t bullet proof. As a result, mano a mano actions scenes between the Americans and the Nazis are relatively few. 

However, when these sequences do arrive, this strategic restraint, one small shred of realism in an otherwise bonkers movie, makes the combat much more satisfying.

"Guys, I got a blister."

“Guys, I got a blister.”

Image: peter mountain / paramount pictures

The villain is sensational

Pilou Asbæk’s character in Overlord makes Euron Greyjoy look like a cupcake. 

Without getting into spoiler city, let me just say this: 2019 Halloween, we are getting so many Wafner costumes. This guy is evil, upsetting, gross, mean, cruel, and also completely rad.

It never hurts to remember that Nazis suck

Well, that point simply speaks for itself. 

Overlord is in theaters now. 

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