Sorry but if you set a WW2 film in a French village or town, Brits of a certain age will see every blond Nazi officer as Herr Flick.
Naming the film’s hero Boyce also means that unfortunately many of us will immediately think BOYCIE! (hehehehehehehe). Which is a shame as Boyce is a topnotch hero: brave and humane, prioritising people over orders.
There are also shades of Terminator, as Herr Flick, I mean evil Nazi officer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk), loses half his face and simply Will Not Die; and of course the Nazi zombies (nazbies?) of Dead Snow, though that horror comedy offers the type of viscera that reminds you that you need sausages for tea while Overlord‘s gore is much more shocking.
How shocking? Well in one week I’ve gone from watching a fantastic musical film about David Byrne from Talking Heads, to a film with a talking head with no body attached, pleading for help. Don’t look down, love, that’s my advice.
Other victims are kept tied up in bags, or killed and reanimated, or left horribly disfigured. The Nazis think nothing of burning them while still alive to dispose of their human experiments.
Luckily Overlord managed to overcome my and Liz’s 1980s sitcom preconceptions, delivering thrills and spills by (the blood-filled) bucketload. Somehow its tale of crazed Nazis experimenting on local people to create an army of 1000-year soldiers for Hitler’s 1000 Year Reich breathes, er, life into the genre.
We chose Overlord because the film club hadn’t watched a zombie film in, oooh, two weeks, and we’ve already seen Geostorm. It’s amazing from the opening scenes – Overlord, not Geostorm – with Boycie and his fellow US paratroopers flown in to France through a gun fight, with burning planes cascading around them. They parachute out though several die.
More die soon after landing; another dies after stepping on a mine. Eventually they’re reduced to five men: Boyce (an excellent Jovan Adepo), Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), Tibbet (John Magero), Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite) and Chase (Iain Decaestecker).
The Americans are tasked with blowing up a communications tower to prevent the Germans providing air cover to their troops during the Allied D-Day landings.
They end up sheltering in the home of Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), a French woman who lives with her 8 year old brother Paul and her bedridden aunt who has been disfigured by Nazi experiments. Boyce goes off to investigate and discovers a basement under the church with a huge tar pit and a grimy lab filled with heartbreaking human victims, like when Ripley finds those tortured, half-baked clones in Alien: Resurrection but less high tech. (Later Chloe flame-throwers one of the mutated creatures, which may well be a nod to the devastated Ripley’s destruction of her clones.)
The Americans, despite endless bickering on the plane, turn out to be a supportive bunch who have each other’s backs, until Chase has Boyce’s neck instead, having been killed by horrible Nazi officer Wafner and then reanimated into a super-strong murderous zombie thing.
Wafner escapes and kidnaps the little boy, so adorable in his knitted cardigan – Paul, not Wafner – but gets shot in the face and then injects himself with two vials of the serum, when only one is needed even to reanimate someone who is actually dead.
As usual our film club chat function was busy – on a muted Zoom call no one can hear your Marlene-from-Only-Fools-And-Horses impression – though the first few minutes are always spent with Liz, who watches tons of US TV, giving me a running commentary on whether the stars have appeared in Sons of Anarchy and/or Game of Thrones, the 21st century baby actor incubators that Casualty, Holby City and The Bill were in the ’90s. (My contribution is to simply mis-identify every chilly yet ultimately noble character as being played Jason Clarke.)
In terms of who lives and who dies, well by the end I was convinced all the American paratroopers had been killed except Boyce, but actually three of them – Boyce, Tibbet and Rosenfeld – survive. That’s the confusion of war I guess.
Ford, having been hung on a meat hook in that basement by Terminator Wafner, frees himself while Boyce is fighting Wafner. Of course Wafner, ever the classic villain, cannot resist explaining to Ford why they are creating these zombies (see paragraph 6) and how. It’s local tar + locals = the serum, and I know that doesn’t sound very convincing but during lockdown I made meringues from chickpea can water and I’ve just found out you can make laundry liquid from conkers, so who knows, maybe it would work.
Ford then injects himself too, knowing he’ll have to do the noble thing and kill himself at the end. Boyce explodes an oxygen tank which throws T-Wafner backwards into the giant tar pit, though he emerges just as various reanimated locals appear to fight. Ford doesn’t want either side to get hold of the serum, and demands Boyce leaves while he blows up the basement with him, the zombies, T-Wafner and the serum supplies in it.
Boyce escapes back to the village, and never tells his superiors what they discovered. Paul you’ll be pleased to know, has already been rescued by Chloe and made it back home, cardigan still fully intact; and the destruction of the German communications tower helps the Allies win the war.
“Oversexed, overpaid and over here,” the Brits joked about American GIs stationed here during World War 2, to which I can only reply OVERLORD!
The Good-Bad Film Club rating
As a slightly distracted yet non-evil doctor might say when I tell him I only drink three units a week and exercise daily: Good-Good.
This week’s film-related googling: The Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies, and whether Wyatt Russell (Corporal Ford) is Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s son. YES HE IS.