Director: Julius Avery
Writers: Billy Ray (screenplay by), Mark L. Smith (screenplay by)
Starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Pilou Asbaek, Gianny Taufer, Iain De Caestecker, Dominic Applewhite, Bokeem Woodbine.
You know what’s awesome about Denny’s? Their menus. Whether you’re still half asleep in the morning or trying to sober-up after the bars close, you can slide into a booth, grab an oversized laminated menu and find exactly what’ll hit the spot without reading a single word. Just point to the glossy colored photo of their Grand Slam Breakfast and grunt to the waitress, “I’ll want that.”
And no matter which Denny’s you stumble into, that Grand Slam Breakfast will look and taste exactly like the picture promises. Nothing on their menu will ever be mistaken for fine cuisine, but unless the kitchen overcooked your eggs over easy, chances are you’ve never walked out of a Denny’s disappointed.
Overlord is sort-of the action-horror equivalent of a Denny’s visit, brought to your table just as advertised and prepared by cooks who may not be Bobby Flay, but at-least their way around a griddle. The cooks in this case are director Julius Avery, producer J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Billy Ray & Mark L. Smith, who’ve put together a heaping, greasy plate o’ bloody horror, violent action and just enough character development so we care who lives or dies.
Taking place during World War II, the film has a squad of paratroopers charged with infiltrating a German-occupied village in France just prior to D-Day. However, in a riveting opening scene, their plane is attacked and only a few of them, led by Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), manage to survive the jump. Their objective remains the same, though: Destroy a radio tower – located in the village church – before their allies hit the beach at Normandy. But after inadvertently infiltrating the church on his own, newbie Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) discovers a lab where Nazis, under the command of lecherous SS officer Captain Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), have been experimenting on villagers to develop a serum that not-only resurrects the dead, it gives them unbelievable strength. Worse yet, they’re almost invulnerable.
We’ve seen Nazi-zombie mash-ups before, mostly low-budget horror fare. But the undead depicted here aren’t zombies in the purest sense and Overlord is just-as-much a war movie as it is a horror film. The plot is strictly meat & potatoes – or bacon & eggs, in this case – with an abundance of familiar tropes from both genres. Amusingly, most of the protagonists act like they’ve been hijacked from a 1940s war epic (right down to the wisecracking kid from Brooklyn), yet they’re engaging nonetheless. And though the film is mostly bereft of surprises or suspense, the mission itself is a fun, gleefully violent adventure that comes to a satisfying conclusion.
Sometimes that’s all you need from a meal. Like everything on the Denny’s menu, Overlord delivers as expected without frills or fuss. Well written, solidly directed and briskly-paced, it isn’t likely to become a classic (though cult classic isn’t out of the question). However, it’s equally unlikely that action-horror fans will walk away still hungry.