Review: Overlord

Score: B

Director: Julius Avery

Cast: Wyatt Russell, Jovan Adepo, John Magaro, Mathilde Ollivier

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Rated: R

Thankfully, Overlord does not tie into the Cloverfield universe. But it owes a significant debt to both Inglorious Basterds and John Carpenter's grotesque, masterful remake of The Thing. And when it's paying homage to – or ripping off – those classics, it's one of the most engrossing movies of the year. Unfortunately, its third act devolves into the standard "final boss" showdown so many superhero movies succumb to. Until then, it's scary and intense. You're on the edge of your seat when you're not jumping out of it.

Shot down over France, a small crew of U.S. soldiers has just six hours to take out a Nazi base and its radio-jamming tower before Allied forces invade. Significantly outnumbered and outgunned, they get more than they bargained for when they discover what's below the base: a lab where a Nazi doctor conducts horrific experiments on POWs and the deceased. To say much more would give away the movie's best shocks, including one of the best jump scares I've seen in a long time.

The core cast of young actors is uniformly strong, especially relative newcomer Jovan Adepo (Fences). As our audience surrogate, he's a new recruit on his first mission. "You barely made it outta boot camp," his fellow private (John Magaro) tells him. Scared out of his mind and reluctant to hurt anyone, he makes the horrors that unfold seem even more terrifying. And it will not surprise anyone that Wyatt Russell channels his dad Kurt on multiple occasions as the gruff squad leader. And there's also Mathilde Ollivier as Chloe, the anti-damsel in distress. She's excellent, but her character is such a blatant rip-off of Melanie Laurent's Shoshanna from Inglorious Basterds that it's hard to give her proper credit.

The film is at its grotesque best when it relies on tension-building editing and music, and when its monsters are presented with top-notch make-up work and practical effects. But when CGI takes over, those abominations lose their power and look downright silly. This is especially evident in the last act, which features the same kind of brawl that we've seen dozens of times before. And such a dark, nasty movie shouldn't have such a (literally) sunny ending.

But for most of its runtime, this is a terrifically gory B-movie with a big studio budget. Overlord seems destined for cult status, though it's not hard to wonder how much stronger it would be if it stuck the landing.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.