Rarely has a film seemed so determined to blow out its audience’s eardrums than this really, really loud World War 2 action/horror opus.
Every punch is a sledgehammer striking a frozen side of beef, every gunshot the roar of a cannon in DTS 5.1 Surround or whatever your hall happens to be equipped with.
It is also a film full of striking visuals and sphincter-constricting suspense, but the latter is not always served well by its punishing soundtrack.
I suspect, however, that the main intention of the din is to distract us from paying too much attention to the clichés from both the war and horror genres that populate the film to the point of Soylent Green-level overcrowding.
Yet it is also director Julius Avery’s deft juggling of these clichés, as well as situations and concepts with which any self-respecting fan of either genre would be thoroughly familiar, that makes Overlord an energetic mash-up capable of keeping us riveted and invested for its 100-plus minutes.
Set hours before the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, the film takes its handful of heroes directly from a Call Of Duty-like video game prologue (a really well done and immersive sequence, it must be said) right into their worst nightmare.
Not only do explosives expert Ford (Wyatt Russell), lost-puppy private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) and their comrades have to pull off their designated mission in a French village, they also have to contend with some horrifying human experiments being conducted there by Nazi scientists.
It doesn’t help that their only source of local aid, Chloe (Mathilde Oliver), is the reluctant squeeze of local German commandant Wafner (Pilou Asbek – yikes, as if the Yanks didn’t have enough trouble, now they need to deal with Euron Greyjoy too).
Still, what’s one more ruthless caricature when they’ve come this far already, eh?
With much of its content already familiar to us, Overlord then needs to rely on its horror-themed aspects to surprise us.
And indeed, these are downright unsettling – among them, a disembodied head that continues to talk – while one “rejuvenation” scene set in an attic is memorable for the roughly equal parts hysteria and revulsion that it generates.
Add to these some startling gore effects, and the body-horror elements of Overlord really do outshine its other aspects.
The trouble is that there really aren’t enough of them, and after the above-mentioned attic scene, the tempo doesn’t really rise further.
Even the heroes’ descent into the subterranean site of the experiments seems a bit too laid-back for us to feel any great sense of peril for the good guys (OK, except for the fella who gets stuck on the meat hook, I guess).
It’s like the filmmakers were happy to open the door to insanity but for some reason seemed reluctant to take things to the insane levels of those, uhm, beloved exploitation flicks that so clearly inspired it.
Director: Julius Avery
Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Oliver, Pilou Asbek, John Magaro, Iain De Caestecker, Bokeem Woodbine