Saturday, June 14, 2014

Shock Waves





****
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie had attained a nicely developed reputation after its release to DVD, benefiting from a resurgence in the desire and demand for European horror and a hungered craze for zombie films of all types. I started to notice this film showing up on “Favorite Zombie Films” lists, and such a distinction says a lot about how distribution and access can help. I believe Shock Waves is that kind of film deserved of the same sort of developed zombie following where a cult audience attaches to it, leading to a recognition certain to propel it to popularity. Just recently I noticed a thread on the imdb Horror board about how Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a bore and overrated, so I can only imagine that if Shock Waves gained a similar following, it would also suffer a similar fate.

Still, I’m one of those that believes Shock Waves is that damned good. Shot with seemingly poor equipment, with small parts for horror icons John Carradine (as a rather cranky and obstinate pleasure boat captain of a tourist ship that had certain seen better days) and Peter Cushing (as a Nazi Commander responsible for the creation of the Nazi zombies of this film), an idyllic island setting with lots of forest, sand, and pockets of creeks, a run-down, deteriorating resort having been abandoned for quite some time, and the goggles-eyed undead Nazis in uniform and rotted flesh rising from their watery grave with only one mission and that was to kill anyone in their sight. Included is that classic 70s score that always added a unique chill that followed the menace of the film (in this case, the zombies) and layered the setting (in this case, the desolate island and forgotten resort) with just the right bit of tension and dread. You see I think atmosphere can be created in many ways. The right kind of film stock, the music that permeates, the right kind of location, makeup effects, and characters/cast that are/is featured in the film. I’m for a cheap or polished look if a level of competence is displayed. I wish to be engaged, I won’t lie, and if a film can compel me in some way, you can win me over.

The plot in Shock Waves isn’t elaborate or complex. This is all about presentation. The bare minimum of plot was needed really, because so much worked in director Ken Wiederhorn’s favor. He could use the names of Cushing and Carradine on any movie poster or marketing campaign. He has the island and no one was using the Nazis for the zombie genre. This film came before Dawn of the Dead and Cushing solidifying his latter career with Star Wars. Brooke Adams, stunning and young, in her debut can often be seen in bikini and delivers a fine enough performance. The heroic lead, Luke Helpin, is refreshingly not some attractive stud, but just a regular guy (he was an employee for Carradine) who steps up and tries to get the tourists off the island once the Nazi zombies are visible to them and Cushing warns them of a doom awaiting them unless they do so. The resort is used in every possible way as the director understands what “age candy” (a term I coined for any location that is dilapidated, weathered, and aged) is at his disposal. The pool, for instance, and garbage-strewn halls/corridors that provide much of what lends a fall-from-grace to the resort which certainly is a sad reminder of what can happen to a location left to ruin. 

While Carnival of Souls, to me, perfected the chilling emergence of the dead from the water, the decrepit zombies resting in the ocean and creeks until victims catch their attention of Shock Waves certainly are right up there at the same level of eerie. The difference in Shock Waves, as opposed to Carnival of Souls, is the use of the sun and island lensed in the strong-toned color, enhanced by the cheap footage and technology of a low budget, independent production, giving the film a weary and worn look as if shelved in old boxes and stored away for some time until discovered and put back out there for a new audience and fresh eyes. Because the zombie genre maintains such a fanbase, Shock Waves can remain a curiosity. Blue Underground putting it out significantly helped the film reach a new generation, as well as, my generation. I purposely look for films like Shock Waves. 

The zombies are silent and deadly. They don’t eat you, but drown their victims. Designed by Cushing’s scientist for Hitler to engage an enemy under any condition or circumstance--only to be discarded due to the war’s end--suddenly, thanks to the misfortune of the tourists, have purpose again as their ship--the rustbucket skeletal outline of a relic of war and a reminder echoing from a terrible history—is what causes the boat of Carradine to sink. Developed to kill, unable to be controlled by those who created them for the very purpose of commanding them to battle chosen enemies, the Nazi zombies are a marvel. We just don't see them rise from the water, but we also witness them walking underwater...and it is damned impressive, too! What I loved more than anything else was how the director has them appear from every sort of place, as if no area of spot is safe. The music and the establishing fact of the zombies all over, there's this all-encompassing, all-consuming, purveying sense of no escape and little refuge from them. I believe creating that is key to this film's success. I think a re-evaluation is in order for this one. It is ripe for it.



 

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