Overlord feels like the kind of movie I might have discovered on VHS in the’ 80s, so it is fitting that I didn’t see it until it’s on Blu-ray. But I feel like if it were a low budget horror movie it might have taken more risks. Because it was a studio theatrical release, it got watered down to make sure anyone who’s never seen anything like this before could keep up.
A low budget horror movie with no CGI probably couldn’t have opened inside a plane in the middle of a WWII dogfight. That is a flashy CGI scene that does convey brutal wartime action. Likewise, sudden war violence breaks out on the ground too, and if what it was building to were more inventive, it would be cool to get the Saving Private Ryan treatment early in the film.
The whole idea of part WWII thriller, hiding behind enemy lines facing the real horrors of war, and discovering horror movie horrors too, is kinda obvious. It’s well done if you’re into it, and we may not have ever gotten this polished a version of it before, but it still feels familiar, like A-listers slumming it.
It’s also mostly a contained location horror film in the attic where American soldiers are hiding. They go out to the church or the underground lab, but keep coming back to home base. And that sort of contained horror all relies on how much you like the characters you’re stuck with. These are fine but no standout. The cast is very winning, but it seems a shame to ask them to play standard types. I suppose just being boys forced into war is sympathetic enough but in a horror movie, the archetypes of hardass leader, idealistic grunt, scaredy cat, etc. just feel basic.
Plus, when we’ve seen as many horror movies as we have, the audience is far less surprised by the discoveries the soldiers make than they are. It has a nice build to it though. By the end it escalates to the most outrageous violence with lot’s of long takes with lots of action in one shot.
The Overlord Blu-ray looks like a sharp war movie. It all has a greenish tint In green forests, attic or basement lab. The graphic violence is bloody and beautiful especially one final big bad with a gaping face wound. CG can do that like Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight.
The bonus features total 51 minutes in 6 featurettes. Producer J.J. Abrams confronts the black paratrooper issue early on. They must’ve seen the tweets before they filmed these interviews and Abrams takes the common sense approach (there were no Nazi zombies either). That wasn’t my issue with the movie. I wanted it to be more outrageous rather than just play out the familiar genre with one outrageous twist.
It goes into the period detail which shouldn’t be taken for granted. Usually Oscar movies get that detail, not zombie horror. Bokeem Woodbine has more screen time in the extras than the film. Seeing some of the raw footage of effects shots is cool too.