No Nazi Zombie Movie Should Be as Boring as ‘Overlord’ Is
An occult Nazi movie should be z-grade schlock
Nazis and the occult are like peas and carrots—they just go well together.
From Return to Castle Wolfenstein to Dead Snow, there’s a grand tradition of the undead Third Reich trampling through American pop culture. There’s been multiple movies about Nazi zombies, but none with as high a budget as producer J.J. Abrams and director Julius Avery’s Overlord.
It asks a simple question—what if D-Day … but with undead super soldiers?
It’s a simple set-up that Abrams and Avery manage to fuck up. Overlord is very very bad.
The problem with Overlord isn’t the directing, the acting or its cheesy concept. It’s that it’s boring. This is a by-the-books World War II movie for the first 70 minutes. It’s only in its final act that Overlord finally turns on the tap and releases the full horror of its premise.
But by then, the film had squandered all the promise of its premise and no amount of over-the-top gore could rescue it.
Overlord starts, like so many other World War II flicks do, during D-Day. The story follows a squad of American paratroopers flying out on the eve of the invasion to clear the way for the seaborne assault. They need to land in the French countryside and destroy a Nazi communication tower to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the invasion.
Boyce, a young black soldier who refused to kill a mouse during basic training, is the lead. Rounding out the cast is a plethora of World War II cliches so forgettable that I struggle to remember their names as I write this.
There’s Dawson, the Oklahoma kid who’s excited to see the world and write about it. Chase, the bookish cameraman who’s more concerned with taking photos than he is with fighting the war. Fore, the mysterious colonel and demolitions expert who saw things in Italy he can never forget. Tibbet, the small and squeaky, vaguely New York guy who bullies everyone around him.
And, of course, Rosenfeld—the Jewish soldier.
The air-drop goes terribly and only Boyce and the rest of the paper-thin named characters survive. The group gathers and makes its way to the French village to blow up the church.
The next 60 or so minutes play out like a shitty episode of Band of Brothers. Along the way they meet up with Chloe—a French resistor who’s trying to keep her family safe. She shelters them from the Nazi patrols as the group plots the destruction of the radio tower.
There are hints of Nazi experiments around the edges of the first two-thirds of the movie, but nothing is ever explicit. German soldiers whisk away villagers for unknown purposes and return them … wrong. Chloe’s own aunt seems to be suffering from a severe case of the zombies, but she’s heard rather than seen.
The last chunk of the movie gives way to full freak-show action as the soldiers assault the church and have to taken on both a full platoon of Nazis and and a few undead super-soldiers. There’s guts, there’s gore, people explode and American soldiers make heroic sacrifices while villains chew scenery — and flesh — while monologuing about the thousand-year Reich needing thousand-year soldiers.
What makes movies such as Dead Snow and Frankenstein’s Soldiers work is they fully commit to their premise. Dead Snow, in particular, is relentless in its depiction of zombie Nazi action. Overlord commits the sin of taking its ridiculous premise deadly seriously. It gives the concept of occult Nazis the well-acted, slickly-directed treatment it never needed.
Stay home and watch literally any other movie with the same premise. You’ll have a better time.