aka Almost Human; Death Corps
Director – Ken Wiederhorn, Screenplay – Ken Wiederhorn & John Harrison, Producer/Photography – Reuben Trane, Underwater Photography – Irving Pare, Music – Richard Einhorn, Special Effects – Harrison & Ken Pare, Makeup – Alan Ormsby, Production Design – Jessica Sack. Production Company – Zopix Co.
Peter Cushing (SS Commander), Brooke Adams (Rose), Luke Halpin (Keith), Jack Davidson (Norman), Fred Buch (Chuck), D. J. Sidney (Beverly), John Carradine (Captain Ben), Don Stout (Dobbs)
Fishermen rescue a woman alone at sea in a dinghy. She recounts the story of how she and several others were taking a cruise aboard the dilapidated sailboat Bonaventure. They were shipwrecked and made their way onto an island where they found an abandoned hotel and its aging German owner. Pale-skinned, white-haired zombies rose from the surf and started killing the survivors. The hotel owner then revealed to them that he was a former SS Commander who headed the Totenkorps, a battalion of thugs and killers who had been turned into zombies.
Nazis have always found great employ in B-budget horror movies with efforts like The Flesh Eaters (1964), They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1964), The Frozen Dead (1966) and Flesh Feast (1970) and even A-budget B-films like The Boys from Brazil (1978) and The Keep (1983). By the 2010s, we had arrived at the gonzo Nazi film with the likes of Iron Sky (2012), Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012) and Werewolves of the Third Reich (2017), which mix Nazis up with UFOs, moonbases, werewolves and all manner of mad science schemes.
Shock Waves was the first in a minor trend of Nazi zombie films and was followed by the likes of Oasis of the Zombies (1981), Jean Rollin’s Zombies’ Lake (1981) and Night of the Zombies (1981), as well as modern efforts such as Outpost (2007) and sequels, Dead Snow (2009) and sequel, War of the Dead (2011) and Bunker of the Dead (2015).
Shock Waves is an impressive little low budget film. The zombies, with pasty white skin, albinoid hair, scarred faces and wearing dark goggles are vivid screen monsters. The images of them walking across the ocean floor, lying in low tide pools or hundreds of them emerging out of the surf one after the other, are striking. Director Ken Wiederhorn maintains a maximum degree of creepy suspense throughout.
However, the lack of any plot beyond the basic needs is sometimes frustrating – the zombies are given a far too convenient vulnerability to light but the script then makes absolutely no use of it. One of the plus points about the film is its cast – John Carradine does well in a too brief role as the cranky boat captain and Peter Cushing invests the role of the SS Commander, and indeed the film, with considerable dignity.
Shock Waves was the debut of director Ken Wiederhorn and is the only highlight in Wiederhorn’s career that has subsequently been a straight line downwards with the likes of Eyes of a Stranger (1981), Meatballs II (1984), Dark Tower (1987), Return of the Living Part II (1988) and the non-genre home invasion film A House in the Hills (1993).