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Overlord

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D-Day approaches. It is up to a band of American soldiers to infiltrate a remote French village. In this village, the Nazis have set up a communications satellite that must be destroyed before the American planes reach France. As the remaining soldiers make their way into the village, they soon realize the Nazis are up to something more sinister than they could ever have imagined.

Overlord, directed by Julius Avery (Son of a Gun) and written by Billy Ray (The Hunger Games) and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant), certainly packs a punch. The opening sequence is arguably the strongest part of the film, immediately immersing the audience in WWII as the American soldiers fly into France, preparing to parachute to their objective. This scene quickly establishes characters in a claustrophobic setting, then immediately tosses these characters into chaos. Once the surviving soldiers make it to the small French town, the film takes a more quiet, reserved approach as the men try to keep their presence hidden from the Nazis. The filmmakers do an amazing job of slowly revealing what the Nazi’s are doing, bit by bit, leading up to the action-packed climax.

The Nazi regime is known for performing experiments that border the line of being supernatural. What is happening in Overlord gives the audience a glimpse into what those experiments might have been. The gruesome results of what the Nazis do in the film add frightening and gory thrills to the film. The plot hints at why the Nazi’s chose this location, as well as how they were able to achieve creating these monsters, but not fully. I appreciate the filmmakers not going into the realm of over-explanation, but I am still curious to know just a little bit more about how the Nazis created the monsters.

The entire cast delivers absolutely fantastic performances throughout the film. Jovan Adepo (Fences, mother!) shines as Boyce, the reluctant soldier with a heart of gold. Adepo conveys Boyce’s internal struggle of doing what he has to as a soldier vs. what he believes is the right thing to do in a very compelling way. Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street, Table 19) gives audiences a surprising performance as Ford, the man in charge of the mission. Most people are used to Russell in more comedic roles, but his performance in this film proves he can handle the grittier roles as well. The dynamic between these two characters is also wonderful to watch. There is tension, as they have different goals, but there is also a mutual sense of respect that can’t be ignored. I could write an entire review just about the acting, but to save time I will give honorable mention to the rest of the stunning cast including Mathilde Ollivier (The Misfortunes of François Jane), Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones), John Magaro (My Soul to Take), Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Jacob Anderson (Game of Thrones).

For an action packed war horror film, Overlord is surprisingly beautiful to watch. The first act has particularly beautiful cinematography. From the time the film begins all the way until the end credits, audiences get a feast for the eyes. On top of the amazing cinematography, the film also boasts some stunning special effects. With a film like this where the Nazis’ creations are a focal point, the effects have to be well done. The effects team seamlessly blends practical and CGI effects to the point where it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The results are some grotesque and spectacular monsters that bring terror to the silver screen.

Overlord packs monstrous frights into a claustrophobic WWII setting to deliver a thrill ride audiences won’t soon forget. This is the kind of film that easily could have been a dramatic war film, and the creature element only added to the excitement and the stunning visuals throughout the film. The amazing performances from the entire cast, especially from Adepo and Russell, drive the emotional core to balance out the horrific events. I only wish the filmmakers had given a bit more information into how the creatures are created by the Nazis in the film, but it’s not enough to take away from the rest of the compelling plot. Between these performances, the special effects, and the cinematography, it’s impossible not to enjoy this film. It’s a film I highly recommend horror fans take the time to see on the big screen.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

 

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Annabelle: Creation

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A couple lost their young daughter in a tragic accident. Years later they decide to invite a nun and a group of orphaned girls to live with them after their orphanage closed down. An evil trapped within the house awakens and now it’s after the soul of one of the girls. The strange supernatural occurrences get worse with each passing day, threatening the lives of all who live in the house. It is up to the girls to try and defeat what could be the Devil himself.

After the less than well received Annabelle prequel of 2014, New Line Cinema decided to attempt a prequel to the prequel. They brought on Gary Dauberman, who also wrote the first Annabelle film, and director David F. Sandberg of Lights Out fame. These two manage to create a film worthy of being apart of The Conjuring universe. Bringing Sandberg in to direct was a great decision by the production company. Even though Annabelle: Creation is only his second feature length film, Sandberg has proven that he is a skilled horror storyteller who knows how to scare audiences. He expertly uses light and shadows to his advantage to not only bring exciting jump scares, but he also relies heavily on creating an unsettling atmosphere with more subtle spine-chilling scares. He also sets up scares in a very long, drawn out way that builds anticipation. You keep expecting the scare to come, but then it doesn’t until you are caught off guard again. Sandberg has already improved his skills since Lights Out, his first feature film, so I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

Bringing Dauderman on to write again was probably the best decision for this film. He has a clear understanding of the mythology created both in The Conjuring and in Annabelle. One of my biggest concerns going into Annabelle: Creation was how they were going to connect it to the first Annabelle film. I was almost expecting them to do what the latest Resident Evil film did and create an entirely new origin story, ignoring the previous film. Dauberman connects the two films in such a seamless manner. It is even more flawless than I could have imagined. On top of that, Dauberman creates a cast of compelling characters, each with their own fears that “Annabelle” tries to exploit. You care about each character, especially young Janice, who is recovering from polio. Caring about the characters makes the demonic presence all the more terrifying.

Having compelling characters would mean nothing if not for the actors who play them. While there are many characters, all of whom are important to the plot, it seems that there are two main characters of this film. Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave, The Hive) plays Janice. Janice is a young orphan who is recovering from polio and has to use a crutch to get around. She suffers the most from the demon since she is the weak link of the orphan girls. Bateman is a new young talent and she absolutely shines in this role. From innocent girl trying to be strong for her friend to possessed by evil, Bateman shows range in her performance and I find myself completely enthralled by her. Lulu Wilson (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Deliver Us From Evil) also gives a stunning performance as Janice’s best friend, Linda. While Wilson excels in this role, I found her to be a bit of a distraction. She had just been in Ouija: Origin of Evil last year, and not only was this another horror prequel but it was set in a similar time (although I think chronologically Annabelle: Creation is earlier). Wilson is great as Linda, but I can’t stop thinking of her as Doris, especially since that film isn’t even a year old. The entire cast does a great job, making each character enjoyable to watch.

In keeping with other films in The Conjuring universe, Annabelle: Creation relies almost entirely on practical effects. Primarily the effects are to make the deceased daughter look unsettling. There is one scene where the makeup done on the girl goes a bit over the top, combined with her line of dialogue, to make it much more funny than scary. Aside from that, the effects are very well done, especially with the demon. While the demon is kept mostly in the shadow, which makes it even more disturbing, they keep its look simple and iconic. Often times what you don’t see is even more terrifying than what you can see, and Annabelle: Creation is a perfect example of that.

I went into Annabelle: Creation somewhat guarded and with low expectations. I came out of the theater with a partially numb arm from crouching awkwardly in fear. Annabelle: Creation is the most frightening film of 2017, so far, and it renews my faith in The Conjuring spin-off films. There are a couple scares that come across more funny than frightening, and I found the casting of Wilson to be rather distracting, but overall I am very pleased with this film. It is exceptionally well acted, has great scares, and perfectly connects to the films that came before it. Annabelle: Creation truly exceeds my expectations. Be sure to keep an eye out for a couple fun Easter eggs in this film, as well as a mid and post credit scene that you won’t want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10