Nazi exploitation flicks don’t have a particularly august reputation. The very worst the genre has to offer: Ilsa She Wolf of the SS, La Bestia in Calore or Last Orgy of the Third Reich plumb the depths of poor taste. Even the more palatable offerings: Dead Snow or Iron Sky tend to be little more than variously tedious curios. Despite their theoretical capacity to shock, Nazis don’t always have the best cinematic track record when it comes to their own sub-genre.
Strange then, that the genre should rocket back into the mainstream under the guiding hand of producer JJ Abrams, a man who, one would assume, doesn’t get out of bed these days for anything less than a billion-dollar sci-fi franchise.
Overlord, taking its name from the codename for the Allied invasion of Normandy, is surprisingly watchable schlock; meaty, gruesome and grim while incorporating a welcome vein of bleak humour. Jovan Adepo plays Private Boyce, a green-ish paratrooper deployed behind enemy lines on the eve of the assault with plans to knock out a German radio transmitter. Along with fellow soldiers Wyatt Russell, John Magaro and Iain De Caestecker, Boyce discovers that the lugubrious chalet overlooking the quaint French village into which they parachute is actually hiding a secret. It’s a mad scientist’s lair where the Nazi’s are conducting hellish experiments on French peasants to perfect a super-solider formula that will turn the tide of the war.
A gore-drenched mash-up of action and horror, World War 2 and zombies, Overlord can almost certainly attribute its existence to the success of the Call of Duty video games series and their zombie spin-off efforts, rather than the cardboard and polystyrene exploitation trash of the Video Nasty age. First-time director Julius Avery has not crafted anything particularly subtle, but he has delivered with a resolutely thrilling and fun slice of B movie exuberance that, if nothing else, provides exactly what it says on its blood-soaked tin.
This one seems to have provoked no tiny amount of pearl-clutching amid accusations of glossing over true crimes perpetrated by SS doctors during the War. Well, for all it’s obvious intention to provoke shock, it’s still a movie that unambiguously declares the Nazis to be evil, literal monsters. At a time when political discourse does not always make that, seemingly obvious, point clear, it’s a welcome watch.
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Horror, Mystery | USA, 2018 | 18 | 7th November 2018 (UK) |Paramount Pictures | Dir. Julius Avery | Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbæk, Iain De Caestecker