overlordParamount Pictures

“Three months ago, I was cutting grass on my front yard. The mailman shows up with a letter from the army. Now I’m here, and no idea where I’m going to end up.”

In-between taking over the Star Trek and Star Wars movie franchises, along with other projects, J. J. Abrams went back to making a straight-up horror movie as a kind of change of pace in the previous year. That movie was this one we’re discussing right now, Overlord. It was the movie that was originally rumored to be another one set in the Cloverfield universe that’s already three movies deep. But, Abrams squelched those rumors, stating that Overlord was going to be its own standalone horror flick, with nothing to even remotely tie it into the whole interesting-yet-convoluted anthology of films. I’m sure there were those out there that figured he was just bluffing, fully expecting another fun yet kind of ham-fisted entry in the Cover-verse.

But, no, as it turns out, Overlord is not a secret Cloverfield movie, with nothing in it that even remotely pointed to it being one in the first place. Personally, I went in not really expecting some kind of tie to that series, as I have this nasty habit of taking people by their word. It’s gotten me burned on many an occasion, yes, I realize. But I gotta be me. Anyway, what I was expecting was another zombie flick. You know, one that was set during the sequel to the War to End All Wars, World War II (Electric Nazi Boogaloo). And…well, it was, but less Night Of The Living Dead, and more Herbert West: Reanimator, if we were to compare it to previous entries in the horror genre.

So, it’s the eve of D-Day, and a platoon of America’s finest parashoot into the heart of German occupied France, with a mission to sneak into a castle being used by the Nazis as a communications base and destroy a radio tower so that the Allied troops can land in Normandy without the Krauts knowing. And before I’m bombarded with accusations of racism, I am of German ancestry, and I have to say that “Kraut” is our word, you hate-filled bigot. Anyway. after being decimated by heavy fire, the surviving troop manage to sneak into the French village where the castle is at, befriend a local member of the resistance, and holes up in the attic of her house while coming up with their plan of action. As it turns out, not only are the Nazis using the castle as a base of operations, they’ve set up a lab in the basement (do castles have basements? Wouldn’t that be more of a dungeon? Or a lower level?), where the obligatory mad Nazi scientist is conducting experiments on the local townfolk and dead soldiers to refine a serum that would turn their soldiers into long-lasting and durable Ubermensch Soldiers that would serve their Thousand-Year Reich. Planning ahead and all that. Only, there are some glitches. Ones that the Americans discover when, while trying to save the life of a dying soldier, they inject him with some of the serum, and he comes back to life really thirsty, feeling really hot…oh, yeah, and also really violent, incoherent, and hard to put down. So, due to the Resistance lady’s young brother being kidnapped by a German officer and taken to the castle, she and the remaining soldiers sneak into the stronghold to take down, not only the communications tower, but also destroy the nightmares that the mad scientist is creating.

Overlord was a rather enjoyable sci-fi horror flick, overall. I liked the way that the movie went into this as more of a period piece war action movie at first, building up not only the story and the tension, but also giving some depth to the soldier characters and even the antagonist Nazi officers who interact with the heroes. So when the David Cronenberg-level horror is introduced, it’s really effective. And that aspect is done just as well, going less for camp, and more for a gritty and chilling portrayal of the mad scientist horror, when juxtaposed with the more realistic horror of the war raging outside of the castle walls.

It’s a pity that, ultimately, Overlord kind of came and went without much fanfare. J. J. Abrams can really do a good horror movie, without having to make it an obligatory part of his mythos. I wouldn’t mind seeing more like this from him. Besides that, Overlord is recommended.