Director – Ken Wiederhorn
Cast – Brooke Adams, Peter Cushing, Fred Buch, Jack Davidson, Luke Halpin, D.J. Sidney, Don Stout, John Carradine, Clarence Thomas
Release Year – 1977
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Shock Waves is a film I came across randomly one day, and seeing that it was from the late 70s and consisted of Nazi zombies I decided to give this one a watch. Nazi zombie films are not new to the genre, however they are usually hit(Outpost)-or-miss(Zombie Lake), with most of them not being as cool as they come off to be. Thankfully, Shock Waves gives us a unique take on the Nazi zombie sub-genre and manages to be a more positive than negative watch.
The film follows a group of tourists and crew onboard and older vessel for a day of fun in the water. Soon after embarking on their journey the conditions around them become awry, but they think nothing of it until they wreck with an old German SS vessel. The travelers make their way onto the shore of a nearby island, but instead of finding hope and safety they find a deep buried 30 year old secret. Little do the travelers know, the island was home to Nazi WW2 experiments in which the Nazis created uniquely adapted soldiers that carried an insatiable drive to continue fighting and killing with their bare hands after death. The undead Nazi soldiers have come home to their home unit, and our travelers as well as an old Nazi doctor living on the island are forced to fight for their lives against some of the greatest killers of all time.
If you like heavily flawed horror films that come with enough cheese to make up for the negatives then you may find this one as moderately enjoyable as I did. I really liked the take this film took on the Nazi zombie sub-genre by actually giving us real Nazi zombies, not merely Nazi undead looking for vengeance. What do I mean by that? Well, in the positive film Outpost, the Nazi “undead”s carried their old WW2 rifles, knives, and ran around like linebackers. While that is cool in its own right, it is not very true to zombie lore as Shock Waves is. In this film the zombies are really zombies, slow yet calculated due to their engineering, and their looks and mannerisms are appropriate. The rest of the storyline around the zombies was cool, and we get to watch a fair amount of social breakdown occur at the hands of the survivors in their nowhere-to-run scenario. Brooke Adams(The Dead Zone, Invasion of the Body Snatchers ’78, Sometimes They Come Back) stars for the main protagonists, and we get a short but sufficient role from John Carradine(Buried Alive, Monster In The Closet, The Howling, The Boogeyman original, The Monster Club, Silent Night Bloody Night) as the tourist vessel’s captain, and even a nice role from horror legend Peter Cushing(Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Asylum, tons of Hammer films)) as the Nazi doctor still residing on the island.
Director Ken Wiederhorn(Return of the Living Dead Part II, Eyes of a Stranger) does a mostly positive yet cheezy job with the film’s direction, which shows heavily with this film very 70s feel. His musical score is awesome and is quite reminiscent of the superior Dawn of the Dead score, which Shock Waves predates by a year or so, and his cinematography is dark and grainy, JUST the way I like it. We get some choppy editing here and there, but that is to be expected with low-budget horror films given there usually is not enough money left for post-production reshoots, so I can forgive this film for that. For a 70s zombie film I was surprised to see a minimal amount of gore in the film, and while it is not necessarily a necessity it would have improved my opinion towards this film. Thankfully, we get some cool looking zombies and live-action effects, however they only left me thinking “Where’s the gore?!?”.
Overall, this is an OK watch if you are looking for a late 70s zombie film that does not come with the usual zombies but some vehemently pissed off Nazi zombies. We get a fair amount of cheese and kills and while the gore is not as present as I wished we do get a fair amount of zombie action.