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In Theaters: OVERLORD (2018)

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OVERLORD
(US - 2018)

Directed by Julius Avery. Written by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith. Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbaek, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Bokeem Woodbine, Iain De Caestecker, Dominic Applewhite, Jacob Anderson, Gianny Taufer, Erich Redman, Meg Foster. (R, 110 mins)

Long-rumored to be another installment in executive producer J.J. Abrams' CLOVERFIELD universe, OVERLORD is not, perhaps thankfully so after the toxic reception given to the disastrous Netflix dumpjob THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX earlier this year. Set in 1944 in the hours leading up to "Operation Overlord," the D-Day invasion of Normandy, OVERLORD is a solid throwback to '80s-style horror that's equal parts BAND OF BROTHERS, THE DIRTY DOZEN, RE-ANIMATOR, THE KEEP, the WOLFENSTEIN video game series, and John Carpenter's THE THING. The Carpenter element is mainly in its third-act siege scenario, some periodic thumping synth beats, and the presence of Wyatt Russell, Kurt Russell's look-and-sound-alike son with Goldie Hawn. Young Russell's been plugging away for some years now, with showy supporting roles in COLD IN JULY, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, and INGRID GOES WEST, but this is the first time his casting is a deliberate homage to his legendary dad. The day before the planned Normandy invasion, a squadron of Army paratroopers is shot down over France en route to destroy a German radio tower atop a church in an occupied France village in order to shut down enemy communication prior to the operation. The plane goes down with a few survivors, but their commander, Sgt. Eldson (Bokeem Woodbine) is killed by German officers, leaving the rest to carry out the mission: second-in-command Cpl. Ford (Russell), quiet Boyce (Jovan Adepo of FENCES), loudmouth Noo Yawk smartass Tibbet (John Magaro as Leo Gorcey), photographer Chase (Iain De Caestecker), and aspiring writer Dawson (Jacob Anderson), who doesn't last long thanks to a mine.





The remaining four end up taking refuge with Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who lives with her kid brother Paul (Gianny Taufer), and a gravely-ill aunt who's barely seen but whose guttural wheeze is heard throughout the house (the actress, very fleetingly seen and rendered unrecognizable under makeup, is credited as Meg Foster, but IMDb seems to think it's a different Meg Foster--one with only one other acting credit way back in 2009--than the veteran cult movie actress, though I'm inclined to think it's "the" Meg Foster until that's confirmed otherwise). Ford sends Tibbet and Chase to check their assigned rendezvous location and while he and Boyce are hiding in the attic, Chloe is visited by sadistic SS officer Wafner (Pilou Asbaek, best known as GAME OF THRONES' Euron Greyjoy), who routinely demands sexual favors. Boyce leaves to check on Tibbet and Chase and ends up discovering a secret lab under the church where Nazi scientists are conducting bizarre experiments on local villagers and captured POWs, including Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite), one of their squad who was presumed dead. He rescues Rosenfeld, but the labyrinthine lab is filled with disfigured creatures capable of superhuman strength, and Boyce realizes that Chloe's "sick" aunt is a botched casualty of the inhuman experimentation. Stealing a sample of a mysterious serum, Boyce makes it back to the house where they run afoul of Wafner, leading to a chain reaction of increasingly horrific events that necessitate overhauling the mission to destroy both the radio tower and the evil goings-on in the underground lab.


The plot hinges on Hitler's plan to create a Thousand Year Reich, which is only slightly more outlandish than, say, Quentin Tarantino's rewriting of history in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and while it doesn't really break any new ground, OVERLORD is an enjoyably goofy and gore-soaked spiritual '80s-style throwback. To put it more simply, if I saw OVERLORD when I was 12, I'd probably still consider it a classic today. Director Julius Avery (SON OF A GUN), working from a script by Billy Ray (SHATTERED GLASS) and Mark L. Smith (THE REVENANT), keeps the pace fast and intense and allows everyone in the ensemble a chance to shine, whether it's Magaro acting like a drafted Bowery Boy, Ollivier getting a badass moment with a flamethrower, or Russell coming off like R.J. MacReady (I'd love to watch Kurt Russell watching OVERLORD). The CGI sometimes disrupts the mood, but there's enough practical splatter mixed in that it's not a dealbreaker. OVERLORD is obviously the end result of a variety of influences, but it does a nice job of keeping its homage factor in check so it's not just a lazy checklist of references. It could be that seeing Nazis get their asses handed to them is just something we need right now, and despite the pre-release hype and that not-very-promising first trailer inexplicably showcasing AC/DC's "Back in Black," it's really not about Nazi zombies, which would be pointless to even attempt, because you can't top 1977's SHOCK WAVES. Is OVERLORD a classic or a "game-changer?" No, but it's two hours of enjoyable, cut-the-bullshit popcorn thrills for genre fans.




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