The brains of the op­er­a­tion

Nazi-fight­ing film filled with blood, sweat and zom­bies

The Chatham Daily News - - LIFE - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­night@post­media.com twit­ter.com/chrisknight­film

Just a few months ago saw the re­lease of Trench 11, a Cana­dian hor­ror film that fea­tured Al­lied sol­diers near the end of the First World War in­ves­ti­gat­ing ne­far­i­ous, zom­bie-es­que go­ings-on in an un­der­ground Ger­man bunker. Well, here’s the se­quel of sorts, one World War later, with a few mil­lion more in the pro­duc­tion bud­get.

The open­ing min­utes are a real Sturm und Drang af­fair (if that’s not be­ing in­sen­si­tive), with a U.S. air­borne unit fly­ing over the English Chan­nel and parachut­ing down in ad­vance of the D -Day land­ings in oc­cu­pied France. As first scenes go, it’s the Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan of zom­bie movies.

Among the squad are an Ev­ery­man named Boyce (Jo­van Adepo), ex­plo­sives ex­pert Ford (Wy­att Rus­sell) and Brook­lyn wiseacre Tib­bet (John Ma­garo), plus a few more. Sep­a­rated from the rest of their unit — most of whom don’t make it — they come upon Chloe (Mathilde Ol­livier), who lives in the nearby town with her lit­tle brother; nei­ther fan­cies the Nazis.

Di­rec­tor Julius Avery, work­ing from a screen­play by Billy Ray (Cap­tain Phillips) and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) — and, it’s worth not­ing, un­der the aus­pices of sci-fi pro­ducer ex­traor­di­naire J.J. Abrams — crafts an en­ter­tain­ing men-on-a-mis­sion story, com­plete with a Men­gele­wannabe doc­tor (Erich Red­man) and a nasty Nazi com­man­der (Den­mark’s Pilou As­baek) who at one point gets to snarl: “The thou­sand-year Re­ich needs thou­sand-year sol­diers!”

Mind you, the su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ments are some­what down­played, es­pe­cially in the early go­ing. The sol­diers’ orig­i­nal mis­sion is to de­stroy a ra­dio tower that could help the Nazis when the real fight­ing starts; only grad­u­ally do they be­come aware that the church that houses that equip­ment also has some­thing unholy hap­pen­ing in its lower lev­els. Af­ter a re­cent screen­ing of Over­lord at Toronto’s Af­ter Dark Film Fes­ti­val, cin­ema­go­ers could be heard com­plain­ing that it could have been more “zom­bie-y.”

The up­side of this is that we have time enough to get to know the in­di­vid­ual sol­diers as more than mere car­i­ca­tures, and thus to care about them too. Par­tic­u­larly fun is the repar­tee be­tween the sharp-tongued Tib­bett and Paul (Gianny Taufer), Chloe’s lit­tle brother, who has a habit of wan­der­ing into the room at pre­cisely the right jump-scare mo­ment.

And be­tween the pros­thet­ics and makeup and what must have been a mas­sive bud­get for ex­plo­sions, Over­lord of­fers many grue­some plea­sures. And about time, I say. Zom­bies have been cin­e­matic fod­der since Vic­tor Halperin’s White Zom­bie in 1932. Nazis as movie vil­lains came soon af­ter, with Char­lie Chap­lin’s The Great Dic­ta­tor in 1940.

This isn’t the first time they’ve been brought to­gether — see 2009’s Dead Snow, 2011’s War of the Dead, and some­thing from 2012 called An­gry Nazi Zom­bies. As the lat­est, Over­lord an­nounces, humbly but clearly, that it has noth­ing to of­fer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. And brains.

PARAMOUNT PIC­TURES

Pilou As­baek plays a nasty Nazi com­man­der in Over­lord.

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