B-horror movies were the entry point for many filmmakers throughout Hollywood history. A low budget doesn’t impede a skilled director to garner any scares, and thus it is the perfect filter for studios looking for the next big thing.
Overlord is essentially a Nazi-zombie movie. The film takes place in 1944 France, as a group of US paratroopers drop into a French village with the goal to take out a radio tower. Soon, however, they discover that the compound under the radio tower is an experimental site the Nazis are using for nefarious purposes.
J.J. Abrams helped produce the film, and that gave director Julius Avery a bigger budget than this type of film would have warranted. The result is a choice to go for practical effects instead of CGI, bringing about the immersive disgust and gore that made David Cronenberg’s films such cult hits. Avery borrows from Cronenberg in more ways than one, using the veteran Canadian’s “invention” of body horror to full effect. The film relies on jump scares until the last act, when the gore and blood-fest is tuned up to gripping levels.
The film seems confused about what it’s supposed to be, though. Is it a cult horror flick, or a mainstream American movie? For nearly the whole first half of the film, we’re presented with a camaraderie drama, inspired more by Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers than The Fly or The Thing. Avery focuses a lot on character development, and while the attempt isn’t half bad, it does distract from what the audience was expecting. The slower pace might annoy some, but others would welcome it as refreshing for the genre. The young cast copes well with the slower parts of the film, and revels in the fun of the finale, rolling around in guts and bodies.
In the end, the film is slightly more than you bargain for. The B-horror expectations are lightened up by a noble effort at bringing about depth to the characters and story. Avery truly delivers an entertaining gore flick, and might have passed the first round of making it to the big leagues.