Thursday, June 15, 2023

Seriously? More Nazi Zombies?

Film: Shock Waves
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

There is a surprisingly robust horror subgenre of Nazi zombie films. The Dead Snow films are probably the best know, but Overlord (which I reviewed earlier this month) is the most recent example that I know of. Shock Waves from 1977 is one of the earliest exemplars of the subgenre. Oh, you can point at King of the Zombies and the sequel Revenge of the Zombies from the war years, but both of these involve voodoo zombies. The Creature with the Atom Brain from the ‘50s is closer, involving a Nazi scientist creating zombies, but doing so for revenge rather than the war. In that respect, Shock Waves might well be a first.

We start with a woman named Rose (Brooke Adams) being rescued in an open boat. What follows is her story, told initially and at the end in voiceover. We flashback to her experience, which starts on a small pleasure boat with a few other guests and a small crew. The boat loses its navigation with the arrival of a bizarre orange haze. The ship also encounters a huge freighter that appears as if out of nowhere, running without lights. Because of this, the boat runs up on a reef, stranding the group.

Fortunately, at least initially, they are close to an island, and soon enough, the group heads there, at first to look for the curmudgeonly captain (John Carradine), who shows up along the way, drowned. Once on the island, the group discovers that there is a building on the opposite side, so they make their way there. The entire group, crew and guests, head here, assuming that it will be civilization. The full group includes Rose, passenger Chuck (Fred Buch), bickering couple Norman and Beverly (Jack Davidson and D.J. Sidney), and remaining crew, first mate Keith (Luke Halpin) and cook Dobbs (Don Stout).

What they find is an abandoned hotel, or mostly abandoned hotel. The lone resident is an old man (Peter Cushing), who turns out to have been an SS Commandant 30+ years previous. When he becomes aware of the reappearance of the freighter, he tells them about his time in the war, of the creation of Nazi super soldiers who were capable of fighting without pain or fear in any environment. His troops specialized in fighting underwater, and were designed as troops who could work in a submarine without surfacing. What these means is, essentially, they are zombies, and that they are capable of “living” underwater.

Naturally, the third act involves the zombies coming for the group and the members of that group being separated, acting stupidly, and being picked off by the Nazi zombies.

It's worth noting for zombie purists that the zombies in Shock Waves are not Romero-esque flesh eating ghouls but simply reanimated bodies. They happen to be ruthless killers who their commander says were impossible to control and completely mindlessly violent, but they don’t do so out of a necessity to consume, but simply to kill as soldiers, and to do so indiscriminately. They also have the added movie trope that while they may be still capable of tool use, they kill hand-to-hand; we will not have our Nazi zombies firing weapons, thank you very much.

Shock Waves isn’t something anyone would likely call a great movie, and I’m not entirely convinced that it’s even a good one. Much of this almost certainly comes from expectation on my part. I was expecting something much more along the lines of what is thought of as a zombie movie. Even if that doesn’t mean rending flesh and destruction, it should at least mean some significant violence, which we don’t get.

In that respect, Shock Waves isn’t that shocking. The weird science we should get from the premise happens entirely off screen and years in the past, so we never see it. The zombies themselves don’t do much more than wrestle with their victims and attempt to drown them because they are so comfortable in the water. Ultimately, Shock Waves commits the greatest sin a horror movie can commit: it’s boring. Not even a late-‘70s Brooke Adams in a bikini can rescue that.

Why to watch Shock Waves: Aquatic Nazi zombies.
Why not to watch: Nazi science scoffs at reasons not to watch!


  1. Replies
    1. Yeah, and it's a boring zombie movie with Peter Cushing and a frequently bikini-clad 1970s Brooke Adams.

      Now that's depressing!