HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: OVERLORD (2018)

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OVERLORD (2018)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Hybrid war movie/horror flick takes place on the night before the Normandy invasion where a mission to take out a communications tower goes horribly awry. After their plane is hit, four surviving American soldiers, Boyce (Jovan Adepo), Ford (Wyatt Russell, Kurt’s son), Tibbet (John Magaro) and Chase (Iain De Caestecker) find themselves on the run from German soldiers in rural France. Now behind enemy lines, the commandos are snuck into a German occupied village by the beautiful Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who lives there with her little brother Paul (Gianny Taufer) and her sick aunt (Meg Foster). Soon the four find out that the Germans, under the command of sadistic Hauptsturmführer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk) are conducting sinister experiments under the local church. Experiments that are right out of a nightmare and whose product may change the course of the war.

Flick is directed effectively and energetically by Julius Avery from a homage-filled script by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith. There are some solid action scenes, some good gore, when it gets going, and the heroes are a likable bunch as are the villains detestable. There are some nice nods to it’s influences and the makers have some fun with classic war movie tropes and characters, like the wise-guy soldier with the NYC accent and the precocious foreign child who develops a liking towards him. It is a fun movie, though one that doesn’t fully deliver on it’s promises. Where the film falters, is that it doesn’t focus enough on the horror elements and spends a lot of time at Chloe’s home in the village, before our heroes finally assault the church. Then it’s over without really delivering the battle between man and Wafner’s squad of Frankenstein monsters we came to see. We hardly spend any time with the scientist actually conducting the experiments (Erich Redman), nor do we get any clue as to what the substance is bubbling out of the ground that is the basis for the Nazis’ work. We get glimpses of atrocities when Boyce sneaks into the Nazi stronghold, but when the climactic assault finally happens it focuses on a serum-jacked Wafner and the experimental soldiers barely play a part. What was the point of introducing them if they never really become part of the action? Make no mistake, the action scenes are fast and furious when they come and overall this is an enjoyable action/horror, it’s just one that fails to really live up to it’s promises and that is where it stumbles. On a technical level it’s a top notch production with an especially effective score by Jed Kurzel and strong cinematography by Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner.

The cast are good and using lesser known faces only helps one suspend disbelief in what they are watching. Jovan Adepo makes a solid hero as Boyce, a compassionate man who may not be cut out for war, but does have courage when needed. The actor is charming and engaging. Wyatt Russell is a chip off of his father as the war hardened corporal Ford. He’s a bit of a hard-ass, but one endears to him nonetheless. Magaro is fun as the clichéd soldier from New York talking like he just came from an old Bowery Boys movie. Caestecker is good as Chase, more photographer than soldier and a bit too timid for this kind of mission. Mathilde Ollivier makes an impression as Chloe. She’s strong and a fighter and makes the sacrifices she needs to, to keep her family safe. Pilou Asbæk has a stereotypical role as the power-hungry and sadistic Wafner, but one feels that this is on purpose and the character is a homage to classic war movie bad guys. Gianny Taufer is cute as Paul and sadly Meg Foster has no dialogue and is unrecognizable under her make-up as Chloe’s aunt.

In conclusion, this is not a film one needs to run out and see, yet is still fun and entertaining, especially if one reigns in the expectations. The action is well-choreographed and when the horror elements present themselves, they are effective and can be quite gruesome. Where the film lets it’s audience down is that it takes quite some time to really get going and then it’s over too quickly once it does. It promises us freakish products of horrible experiments, but they are actually not as large a part of the action as we were led to believe, or hoped they would be. They kind of sit on the sidelines save for a few appearances. It’s a bit of a letdown, despite the fact that the film is well made and effective in what it does do. Not a bad movie at all, just one that doesn’t fully deliver what the trailers promised.

On a personal note…IMO, running a mediocre rap song over the end credits, instead of the more fitting, classic AC/DC song that played perfectly in the trailer, just didn’t work at all. Just came across as awkward and didn’t fit the tone of the film we just watched.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 bullets.

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: COLD IN JULY (2014)

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COLD IN JULY (2014)

As a big fan of writer/director Jim Mickle (Stake Land/We Are What We Are 2013) I was eagerly awaiting his next flick especially when I heard it would be a thriller and star Dexter’s Michael C. Hall. And while I feel the film left a few questions unanswered, I did like it’s bold changes of direction and Mickle’s very John Carpenter-ish style… including a dead-on Carpenter-esque score by Jeff Grace and a character named ‘Jack Crow’ (Lanny Flaherty) as from Carpenter’s Vampires. And I can only believe it was all deliberate.

The film is based on a book by Joe R. Lansdale and takes place in 1989 Texas. Small-town picture-framer Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) wakes up in the middle of the night to find an intruder in his house. In fear for the lives of his son, wife and self, he reluctantly confronts the man with his gun and shoots him dead after being startled. The unarmed man is identified by police chief Ray Price (Nick Damici, who co-scripted) as Freddy Russell (Wyatt Russell) a wanted man and known felon. Richard is stricken by guilt but, that is the least of his troubles as Freddy’s dad Ben (Sam Shepard), also a felon, has just been paroled and begins stalking Richard’s family, with apparent harmful intent for his little boy. But, as the police pursue the revenge minded Ben, the situation takes a bizarre turn as a twist of fate leads Richard to believe the man he shot was not Freddy Russell. Now to uncover the mystery of who was actually killed in his house and why the police are lying, leads Richard to the one person least likely to want to help him… Ben Russell.

I enjoyed this movie. It was a tense thriller and Mickle creates some great atmosphere and tension while also taking things suddenly in directions one does not expect… more than once. He and Nick Damici’s script takes us on some unexpected turns and ultimately delivers a blood soaked thriller far different than we expected going in. The style of the film reminded me very much of early John Carpenter and I doubt that is a coincidence as Jeff Grace’s accompanying score sounds as if it was lifted directly out of an 80s Carpenter film and Ryan Samul’s cinematography echoes that of a Carpenter flick. Mickle again shows he is a filmmaker to watch and he has a nice versatility in the tone of his projects. There is also a nice undercurrent of humor in the script, especially when Don Johnson is on-screen as delightfully cliche’d Texas private investigator Jim Bob Luke. The character is far too stereotypical to not be deliberate and it adds to the film’s atmosphere and flavor, lightening the very dour tone a bit to keep the atmosphere from being oppressive. There are some flaws. Changing narrative direction does leave some questions unanswered and I certainly question whether the fairly meek Richard would have voluntarily seen this thing through, like he does, once it appeared things would get bloody. There are a few things I can certainly figure out on my own, but, the film does still leave us with quandaries and the change in narrative does leave characters behind who we’d like a bit of closure with. But, I still enjoyed the film as it is and the last act bloodbath was quite effective. And another factor that helps overcome some of it’s flaws, aside from Mickle’s skilled direction, is a dynamite cast…

Michael C. Hall is very effective as a demure small-town business and family man who is dropped into a violent situation that turns into a mystery and gets even more violent. He seems like a good man who truly wants answers to satisfy his conscience for not only killing an unarmed intruder but, why he was lied to about his identity. I’m not sure Richard would have pursued things to it’s bloody end when given a chance to walk away, but, Hall is still good in the part, nonetheless. Sam Shepard is absolutely gripping as Ben Russell. At first he comes across as a violent and vengeful man with harmful intent toward Dane and his family but, as the mystery unfolds, he becomes a different person altogether and one who might actually have a sense of honor underneath the convicted felon. Shepard is a gifted actor that really makes a simple criminal into a complex three dimensional character. Don Johnson also shines as good-ole-boy private detective and pig farmer Jim Bob Luke. He has a good time with a man who is both charmingly Americana yet, larger than life and Johnson also imbues a stereotype character with some layers and dimensionality as we get to know him. Johnson’s last few roles has shown us an actor who has matured gracefully and only gotten better with age. Nick Damici also proves he has become a good actor aside from Mickle’s co-writer, on all his previous projects, and his Ray Price is an interesting character with interesting motives and it’s too bad the story leaves him behind at a fairly early point. The rest of the supporting cast are just fine and the acting helps make this flick work as well as it does.

So, despite a few unanswered questions and some changes in story direction that may throw some viewers off… but, I liked them… this is a taunt and sometimes very violent thriller from a director who continues to grow and surprise. I loved tha the film evoked John Carpenter in his prime and what it might have been like had the master director done a down and dirty thriller like this. I also loved Jeff Grace’s very Carpenter-ish score and the addition of a character named ‘Jack Crow’ leads me to believe that the Carpenter style and score was not a co-incidence. An atmospheric thriller not afraid to change gears and take us in unexpected and sometimes blood-soaked directions, guided by a director who can deliver the goods and win us over despite the film’s flaws.

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

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