Shock Waves (1977)

This is a great little film that combines two of the 70s most popular horror movie themes: monsters in the water and undead zombies. It also features the always-wonderful Brooke Adams (from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) in a major role, not to mention both John Carradine and Peter Cushing.

A group of vacationers being taken on a cruise around some unspecified tropical islands experiences some trouble when a decades-old ship appears out of nowhere and rams their boat. The “ghost ship” is populated by undead SS soldiers who were created to survive both underwater and on land, and it goes without saying that they have no friendly intentions.

The new castaways take refuge on an island inhabited solely by Peter Cushing, a former Nazi commander who was in charge of the “Death Corps”, and their host gives them a hasty explanation about what they’re all up against.

The rest of the film is the tourists and sailors being stalked and offed by the zombies, who have really wrinkled skin and wear groovy goggles. Unlike the standard flesh-eating zombies of 70s horror, these undead guys don’t wanna bite you, they just wanna hold you under the water until the bubbles stop. Genre fans hoping for some cannibalism or guts will be disappointed.

The visuals in the movie are sometimes striking. The underwater shots of the zombies are bizarre, as are the scenes of them rising up out of the ocean (or whatever body of water happens to be handy). Most of the action takes place on the island, which features a deserted resort that is pretty creepy in itself. A couple of the shots reminded me of “Carnival of Souls”, with one or two scenes of undead faces looming just under the surface of the water.

The editing is a bit choppy and slightly incoherent. It seems like a few scenes establishing the characters were excised, as well as some other exposition such as the fate of the tourists’s boat (what DID happen to it, after all?). The pacing is also not for all tastes, since this movie never builds into a all-out assault or anything, but it’s an enjoyably creepy chiller in the classic 70s style. This is a prime candidate for DVD rediscovery. Watch it if you can find it.