Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beware the Underwater Nazi Zombies!

Shock Waves (1977)
Starring: Brooke Adams, Luke Halpin, Fred Buch, Jack Davidson, D.J. Sidney, Peter Cushing, John Stout and John Carradine
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Two young couples (Adams, Halpin, Buch and Sidney) are stranded on a remote island as undead Nazi supersoldiers rise from the ocean's depths to take revenge on their creator (Cushing) and all the living.

"Shock Waves" sounds like it should be the ultimate cheese-fest--how can something featuring underwater Nazi zombies NOT be? Especially a movie from the 1970s, made by inexperienced filmmakers on a shoestring budget?

Well, in the case of this film, the inexperience worked in their favor.

With classic horror stars Peter Cushing and John Carradine available each for four days of the film's four-week shooting schedule, director Ken Wiederhorn set out to make a movie in the vein of the old fashioned 1950s and 1960s Hammer horror fests but with a more modern sensibility. What he ended up with was a film that included some of the sexiness of a Hammer picture--Brooke Adams spends much of a film in a bikini and the rest of it in a barely buttoned shirt--and the mood over high velocity splatter that was increasingly in vogue during the late 1970s.

But, Weiderhorn, mostly be accident if the coversation on the DVD commentary can be believed, created a film that is far more of a mood piece than a horror show, with the zombie attacks being as horrorfying as they not so much because they are underwater Nazi zombies that seem to be able to pop up anywhere there's water (even in a disused swimming pool), but because there is an atmosphere of hazy, nightmarish dread that permeates the entire film from the moment our protaganists encounter a strange weather phenomena at sea to the final image of a sunburned, blistering Brook Adams.

With creepy locations, creative camerawork, surpringly creepy Nazi zombies and good performances by all cast members, "Shock Waves" is a film that is undeserving of its obscure status. It's almost worth seeing for Brooke Adams alone, as she is one of the better "damsels in distress" I've encountered in a horror movie, possessing a pretty face, an attractive body, and vulnerable quality that makes you fear for her safety throughout and whince with extra sympathy when she is terrorized or injured.

And then there's Peter Cushing. While this isn't is best performance--his "German" accent is even more suspicious than the "Swedish" one he tried to do in "The Beast Must Die,"--he still draws your attention like metal shavings to a magnet in every scene he appears in. He is thoroughly believable and repulsive as the Nazi commandant who eventually gets what he deserves.

And even setting Adams aside, this film is undoubtedly the masterpiece of underwater Nazi zombie movies. Maybe Oliver Stone can do a remake, once he's done showing us all how Hitler really wasn't such a bad guy,(as explained at Shades of Gray) with the Nazi zombies being heroic champions of a Greener Planet. After all, Underwater Nazi Zombies have no carbon footprint whatsoever!