Monday, April 18, 2011

2.2 SHOCK WAVES (1977)

Shock Waves (1977)
Dir. Ken Wiederhorn

I went into this one not expecting anything at all.  To be honest, I expected it to be awful.

But as the credits came up, I was reminded that Peter Cushing and John Carradine were both in the film.  So it couldn't be all bad, right?  Absolutely.

This film was co-written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn, who's credits aren't amazing, but does include Return of the Living Dead Part II (which he also wrote), which I enjoy more than anyone else I know.  He's also responsible for directing episodes of Freddy's Nightmares and 21 Jump Street

Along with Peter Cushing (who also played Grand Moff Tarkin in a little indie film that same year) and John Carradine (who will always be a favorite of mine for his role in Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex  * But Were Afraid To Ask), the film starred a young Brooke Adams, who would bust out the next year in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and also star in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven and Cronenberg's The Dead Zone.

That's enough of a pedigree to catch my interest.  And as it turns out, this isn't half bad.

The main plot goes like this: a group of people hire a boat to go sailing.  The captain, Carradine, is a little crazy and the boat is a little run down.  After a really weird incident with the sun going haywire, that night they run aground and find themselves stranded on an isolated island.  The only inhabitant of the island, Peter Cushing, is an old Nazi who just happened to be in charge of a special Nazi experiment at creating super soldiers.

The only problem was that the soldiers used were all violently disturbed and psychotic to begin with, and once they were transformed into undead killing machines, no one could control them.  Go figure.  So Cushing was ordered to scuttle them to the bottom of the sea as the war drew to a close.  And there they've lain all these years.

Now, in 1976, they are reawakened and proceed to kill everyone on the island.  Except for Brooke Adams (who happens to be fished out of the sea in the opening moments by a black fisherman played by an actor named Clarence Thomas -- hmmmm).

This one's a little slow moving, but you know what?  I never stopped getting creeped out by the Nazi zombies rising up out of the water.  And it's their signature move.  They must pop up out of the water thirty times over the course of the film.  But every damn time, it made me shiver.

There's just something about pale, rotting Nazis in sci-fi goggles rising up out of the water that just hits a button in my brain.  Weird.

Anyway, there's not much gore at all in this one, if you're a little on the queasy side.  Instead, this one's all about the creeping scare.  It helps that they've run aground on an island that has a nice mixture of jungle, swamp and beach.  This provides numerous opportunities for our victims to go running through the low water, only to have a Nazi zombie rise up behind them and give me the full-on creeps.

Maybe the most effective moment in the whole film doesn't even involve the zombies.  Our heroes decide to lock themselves in a big abandoned refrigeration unit to wait out the night, and it looks like it might work.  Until one fellow has a truly horrifying panic attack and completely freaks out.  It was the most believable acting in the entire film, really.

Of course, it leads to tragic ends for everyone.

I liked this one.  A lot more than I thought I would.  Sure, it's low budget (it was shot in 35 days and the big stars Carradine and Cushing earned a whopping $5,000 bucks each for four days' work), but I'll be damned if it's not effective.

As far as I'm concerned we're four for four this holiday marathon.

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