Peter Cushing and John Carradine star in this effectively creepy horror film. Blue Underground R0 US DVD.
Although the 1970s was considered a period of excess for cult horror
films, with sex and gore being pushed to the limit in Europe, and the
impending birth of the slasher film in the USA, there was still some
appeal for some old-school horror movies that aimed to scare and not
small group of people are traveling on a battered old boat through the
Carribean - the Captain (Jon Carradine) tries to keep the ship
together, but when it collides with a huge freighter that appears from
no-where, with no running lights, the boat runs aground near a small
island. The captain vanishes and soon turns up dead, and the passengers
and crew land on this isolated and seemingly deserted island, and make
their way to a large building, that they find is an abandoned hotel.
After exploring for a while they encounter an emaciated old man (Peter
Cushing) who warns them away from the island, but it is too late and
the passengers soon find themselves being hunted down by an unstoppable
corps of German soldiers from the Second World War, the result of some
horrific supernatural experiments, who have returned from their watery
idea of supernatural forces being used in wartime is hardly an original
one - Dennis Wheatley wrote of Nazi specialists using voodoo in Strange Forces (1941), while poverty row horror Revolt of the Zombies
(1936) had featured the notion of 'zombies' being used in warfare. More
recently, such themes have been used in the gory zombie horror Return of the Living Dead 3 (1990) and in a slew of low budget alien horror films. Fortunately, Shock Waves
stays away from the predictable technobabble and
experimentation-gone-wrong of these later films to create a very
impressive little shocker.
The opening of the story is a little
vague, we never really find out the purpose of the ship's journey or
much about the characters, although we do quickly learn which of the
characters is purely annoying (a large loudmouth type who you just hope
will die as soon as possible). Although generally a worse film,
Hammer's Lost Continent
(1968) achieved a far more successful ship based opening that built some
effective and plausible characterisation that could have further
boosted the tension in the later scenes. After an inexplicable moment
when the sky goes orange, the boat runs into the darkened freighter in
a very creepy nighttime sequence and the passengers are soon on the
overgrown island. The desolation here is effectively realised, and with
the jungle setting it is at time reminiscent of a Jess Franco film
(although with considerably less sleaze).
creatures soon appear, and we discover their history from the SS
Commander who has lived in exile on the island through the years
(avoiding the genre cliché where one of the passengers would just
happen to be an expert on the supernatural - see Ghost Galleon
(1974)). There are some curious plot holes - most notably the fact that
Rose decides to go swimming on her own in a river - despite having just
arrived on this overgrown island and being warned to leave by a
sinister individual who lives there. Because the film is told via
flashback we know from the start that just one of the passengers
survives and this actually helps to give the film an additional edge of
tension, as we know something is going to go horribly wrong when the
group try to leave the island aboard a small boat about half way through. Ultimately the film
builds to a very effective climax and conclusion that is aided by
some very tight editing and scripting, avoiding the lengthy and
predictable climactic fight sequences that blight many similar films.
per the storyline, the production of the film is very understated -
beginning with the simple title sequence and synthesised soundtrack,
even the killings are often carried out off camera and with minimal
gore. The creatures themselves are very impressive; making no noise and
simply rising up from the water to seize their victims, they are scary
in a way that rivals George Romero's Night of the Living Dead
(1968) and easily outdoes most of its contemporaries, while the island
and hotel look completely overgrown and desolate and lend a suitably
convincing atmosphere to the whole film. Shot on 16mm film and blown up
to 35mm for screening, the film looks suitably gritty throughout that
helps to completely remove it from the glossy 'Hollywood' look of many
American horror films.
billed on the cast are two of the big names of classic horror, Peter
Cushing and John Carradine. Although only in extended cameos, both
actors get a good amount of screentime and look very good - Cushing
often found himself playing Nazi-style Officers (Scream and Scream Again (1969) and Son of Hitler
(1978)) and looks very effective here although almost disturbingly
thin while Carradine gets to show off his classic stare. The
attractive Brooke Adams is the only other big name on the cast
although all of them perform well and in keeping with the film's
gritty tone they all look like real people not just Hollywood stars.
effectively creepy film eschew the sleaze of most 1970s horror movies
for some good atmosphere and decent characterisation, and certainly
stands out above its low budget origins. Definitely of interest to any
horror movie fans, it will certainly appeal to fans of Cushing or
Carradine as they get larger than normal cameo roles. Generally
Ken Wiederhorn - only really otherwise known for directing Return of the Living Dead II (1988).
Is it scary?
There are a few scares, but mostly just a very creepy atmosphere.
Several death scenes, a bit of blood but quite tame for the era.
Who is it for?
Of general interest to horror fans, and fans of Peter Cushing or John Carradine.
A very effective synthesised score from Richard Einhorn, who also scored creepy slasher The Prowler (1981).
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print quality is good including the nighttime scenes, although there is
some noticeable print damage in a few scenes. Very heavy grain
throughout is part of the intentional look of the film and is retained
English original mono sound - sounds strong throughout.
The disc includes:
commentary with director Ken Wiederhorn, make-up man Alan Ormsby and
low budget filmmaker Fred Olen Ray who had worked in the crew of this
film. Interesting and quite light hearted.
Interview with the
actor Luke Haplin with plenty of interesting information on the film's
production (although not edited with film clips unlike the normal BU
interview pieces). (8 minutes)
Original trailer, TV spot and two radio spots.
A lengthy (84 image) poster, stills and lobby card gallery with some interesting behind-the-scenes shots.
Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Available on similar DVDs in Italy and Germany, and a low quality fullscreen version in the UK.
film is believed to be uncut. The
print and credits are English language.
An effectively creepy horror film that replaces sleaze with storyline. Recommended.
As good a looking and sounding print as is ever likely to emerge of this film, with some solid extras.