The 2018 alternate history action horror film Overlord had some chillingly accurate moments of war mixed in with the supernatural aspect of the film. Dropping in on a certified war zone during one of the memorable wars of the last century, World War II, Overlord rivaled the realism and true terror from the 1979 American epic psychological war film Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who is a big fan of Deadpool). Both films are currently streaming on Prime Video (with a Redux version available on Netflix for Apocalypse Now), and their gritty exploration of the genuine horror many soldiers might have felt during these wars is palpable and memorable.
At the start of Overlord, a paratrooper squad is traveling to a location in Germany to destroy a radio-jamming tower in an old church. The team doesn't make it far before the plane is shot down and crashes, forcing the squad to parachute into an unknown location. This scene is shown from Edward Boyce's point of view as he struggles to deploy his parachute in enough time to break his fall before landing in deep water. He's been trained for this moment, but the reality is much more jarring, and the audience witnesses Edward's genuine fear as he falls into a war zone, having no idea where he might land or if that landing will end his life.
Many of his fellow squad members don't survive the fall, making his landing in the water a lucky one even if there's a moment of confusion. Putting this scene early into Overlord truly set the tone for the rest of the film as those initial moments of fear rival the supernatural elements later revealed in the story. Obviously, there are more terrifying scenes to Overlord, as the movie is categorized as horror. There's also a satisfyingly creepy creature in the mix as the squad uncovers mysterious experiments Nazis have been conducting on innocent civilians.
While completing their mission, the squad uncovers a small village right next to the church, and they find refuge in a French civilian's house. Some members of the village enjoy having the Nazis there to police their neighbors, but Chloe isn't one of them. Wafner, one of the Nazi patrol officers, coerces her into frequent sexual activities with him, threatening to take her younger brother if she doesn't comply. The policing and general fear over the villagers could be considered another realistic element of the film, as many people experienced a similar hostage situation during WWII.
Apocalypse Now is set during the Vietnam War, which is another infamously violent war in American history. Although the story is fictional, the movie is loosely based on the 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, with the setting changed to the Vietnam War. The movie is gritty and ominous, showcasing some real moments that would be considered traumatizing and intense. Martin Sheen's character, U.S. Army Captain Benjamin Willard, is tasked with the assassination of Colonel Walter Kurtz, who is played by Marlon Brando. Willard travels through the various levels of war, which could be compared to different levels of hell, before meeting his target at the end of the film.
There's an iconic scene in Apocalypse Now where Willard's team arrives at a remote U.S. Army outpost to retrieve information for their mission. Through searching, Willard realizes there is no commanding officer and that the outpost has probably been abandoned because it's too dangerous to pass through. The soldiers at the front of the outpost live in constant fear, shooting at enemies they can't see for hours on end. These soldiers have no concept of time or their general surroundings as every moment is focused on simply surviving. This scene could be considered the most horrific, rivaling that of the earlier mentioned plane crash scene in Overlord.
Although Apocalypse Now does not consider itself to be a horror film, there's still a psychologically thrilling element to the film that could easily inspire future horror films. Overlord took elements of the truly terrifying reality of war as seen in Apocalypse Now and added the supernatural element to it to create a compelling creature feature film as well. Each film delivers a similar message – war is hell.