'Overlord's Zombie Serum Might Be Explained by a Special Type of Fungus

Breaking down the science for a new kind of Nazi zombie.

What does it take to create a Nazi zombie? According to the fake science presented in Overlord, it takes some mystical goop and a mad scientist and to refine it into a super-soldier serum. There’s no viral contagion that infects people via biting, but there’s still plenty of violence.

Director Julius Avery actually told Thrillist in November 2018 that he considers the crazed beings in Overlord to be “super-soldiers” rather than “zombies.”

“Even in the development stage and leading to the shooting, we never called them zombies,” Avery said. “We always called them super-soldiers. Even though there’s a lot of testing and one or two rejects — and I think we even called one of them ‘a mistake’ — they’re not trying to create mindless, flesh-eating creatures. They’re trying to create an unstoppable army.”

The main Nazi villain of the movie, Captain Wafner notes that a thousand-year Reich needs a thousand-year army, and this is how they plan to accomplish just that.

So the Nazis create a red-orange liquid that, when injected, blesses the living with extreme strength and healing. It’s so potent, in fact, that it can even reanimate the dead. The substance’s barely-explained origins involve a mysterious liquid flowing beneath the church of a small French village. Somehow, Nazi scientists figured out they can pump the sludge into bags full of people, and the bodies secrete the serum.

The whole process is terrifying and disgusting, but thankfully science says nothing like this is even remotely impossible.

'Overlord' Jovan Adepo
Jovan Adepo as Private Ed Boyce in 'Overlord' finds a syringe of the serum.

There are certain types of naturally occurring fungi that can induce a kind of zombie-like madness in flies. There’s even a species of wasp that can infect and essentially hijack a spider into doing its bidding. (Nazis would really like that one!)

But we’d do better to focus on the similarly impossible science of a super-soldier serum. Unless we can properly figure out how to radically modify our genetics, to hyper-activate or deactivate very specific genes after somehow identifying them, then there’s just no way to do it.

This December, Inverse is counting down the 20 best science moments in science fiction this year. This has been #17.

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Media via Paramount Pictures