Weird war

“The heating bill in here is outrageous.”

“The heating bill in here is outrageous.”

American soldiers get up close and personal with some mutant Nazi soldiers in Overlord, one of the weirder films to make it to the big screen in 2018.

J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot company have come up with a peculiar one this time. While initial reports had this one as a Cloverfield movie, it is not. This is a standalone—A weird, bizarre and freaky standalone.

U.S. World War II paratroopers, led by Kurt Russell’s look-and-sound-alike son Wyatt as demolition expert Ford, land in a Nazi-occupied French town intent upon destroying a Nazi communication tower. It’s the eve of D-Day, and the beginning of director Julius Avery’s flick is an effective war movie as those paratroopers, including Jovan Adepo as Boyce and John Magaro as Tibbet, must escape a crashing plane and then evade Nazis on the ground.

Soon after linking up with local resident Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), the soldiers find themselves in a safehouse. It’s your typical small French town house, excepting for the fact that Chloe’s aunt down the hall is ill, and we aren’t talking whooping cough. Wyatt remains focused on the tower mission, but Boyce inadvertently stumbles upon the root cause of that aunt’s bumpy condition.

Nazi doctors are seriously screwing with dead people’s biochemistry in an effort to create a thousand-year army. This results in some messed up experiments like Chloe’s aunt, but also brings about superhuman Nazi soldier zombies with direct orders to tear people apart. Yikes!

The whole Nazi zombie thing has been done before (various movies, Call of Duty video games) but never with such authentic style and gory aplomb. Credit Avery for a nice slowburn as his movie goes from army mission adventure to Sam Raimi-style crazed horror when Boyce discovers strange cocoons inside an old church.

The first legitimate appearance of a full blown, roid-raging dead Nazi is a genuinely good and super scary time. There’s also an unfortunate incident with another guy that involves collar bones shooting out of his skin due to massive contortions, and I must give high marks to the makeup effects team on that one. Avery made a concerted effort to actually use practical special effects rather than CGI, so much of the film’s gore and gross stuff is made from scratch—a good thing, because when the film does use CGI, it isn’t great.

Pilou Asbæk makes for a memorable villain as a Nazi officer who winds up mutated without ever dying. He’s the ultimate Nazi/Zombie/Superhuman/Dickweed, with a face that reminds me a bit of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. He apparently went through five hours of makeup for these scenes, and I must say that it was time well spent. He totally sucks in a good way.

There’s talk of remaking Escape From New York. Please don’t do that, but if you should, quit screwing around with casting the likes of Gerard Butler as Snake Plissken and go ahead and give Wyatt Russell the job. He’s the son of Kurt and Goldie Hawn, and he’s got dad’s superior jawline and an identical speech cadence. His determined demolition expert is a nice balance of hero and total asshole, something his pop also does well.

Adepo is actually the one with the most screen time, and he makes for a good, slightly unreliable and nervous central character. Ollivier has a nice moment with a flame thrower that reminds me of Ripley in Aliens. Magaro is so authentic as a New York native World War II soldier, you’d think he arrived on set every day via time machine.

At a time when studios are starting to release their Oscar favorites, it’s interesting to see something like Overlord post-Halloween. The movie doesn’t score major points for originality, but it’s a good time nonetheless for those of us who enjoy seeing bad things done to Nazi types.