Overlord (18)

WAR is a kind of horror and this terrifically uncompromising World War Two genre-fest just takes that idea and runs with it.

When their plane is blown out of the sky while en route to take down a crucial German-controlled tower atop a church located in a French village, a small group of soldiers including Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell) and newbie Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) seek to carry out their mission regardless.

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However, when Boyce is sent alone to scope out the target, he happens across a mysterious lab in the bowels of the church in which the Nazi soldiers appear to be conducting experiments on dead bodies in order to bring them back to life and form a “thousand-year Reich”.

It’s quite literally a war movie that wanders into a horror as it’s happening. It’s hardly the first film to try it but the key here is that it’s confidently directed with a keen sense of how to pull off those two conflicting ideas.

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The war stuff has a classic men-on-a-mission purpose about it, evoking everything from Saving Private Ryan to Inglourious Basterds. At the same time it satisfyingly commits with gnashed, quasi-zombified teeth to its B-horror movie sensibilities, particularly as it descends into a ferocious final act. There are also hints of Cronenbergian body horror at times, with top-notch grisly make-up effects helping to keep the inherently ridiculous locked into a convincing sense of fear and threat to our soldiers caught unawares.

The characters are well drawn to make us care just enough as they are forced to deal with already horrifying stuff morphing into something hellish. Adepo (so brilliant in Denzel Washington’s Fences) brings a sympathetic, grounded anchor for us to latch on to throughout as the craziness is turned up to 11.

Russell is effective as the hardened group leader whose commitment to accomplishing the mission at all costs stands in stark contrast to a situation that increasingly goes beyond anyone’s control; and John Magaro is fun as the perpetually snarky Tibbet who brings some much-needed comic relief among a swamp of mayhem.

It’s not a particularly deep film by any stretch, but nor does it pretend to be anything that it’s not. It does what it does with panache, an open-armed embracing of the OTT and a kind of ruthless gusto which results in an entertainingly bonkers tornado of styles and sensibilities that, once it gets going, barely takes its finger off the trigger.