A group of survivors off a boat disaster became stranded on an island- but that’s not their main problem. As now a hermit informs them that the island isn’t safe as there are invincible Nazis zombies that lay dormant off the island- but it’s to late as they have risen after 35 years from the sea and now they’re back to their old ways.
For an incredibly low-budget film this was definitely enjoyable and a bit inventive in the execution. If you think it’s going to be like your usual zombie film forget it. There is no flesh eating and it lacks gore… actually there isn’t any at all. There is no action packed scenes of zombies and people getting blown away or cut up, as the deaths happen to be pretty quick and sharp. Some we don’t even get to see. The deaths might be paced really slowly, unimaginatitive and even bloodless. But I didn’t mind, as the point wasn’t to shock the audience with violence, but the use of atmosphere and images to keep them captivated and at unease.
The plot idea of the living dead was a very intriguing one… Nazis have produced invincible soldiers for WW2 that can adapt to any habitat because they could live without food and oxygen, with the sole purpose to kill. But when war was over, their U-boat was sunk so they weren’t found out. The story itself does get a bit repetitive and some plot holes show up that are pretty transparent and might get on people’s nerves. Like why did the Nazi zombies decide to surface now after laying dormant for 35 years. What happen to the pleasure boat and in the first 5 minutes we learn who survives, so now where just trying to figure out what order they will die in, which for some could be quite tedious and less suspenseful, but for me the film’s flaws made up for it with memorable images of the Nazi soldiers called ‘Death Corps’, a sombre atmosphere, alluring setting and Cushing & Carradine to ground it.
The special effects… well there were hardly any, with the exception of the usual rotting corpse – but the make-up of the Death Corps are definitely striking and kind of creepy. Especially when they’re lurking in or around the water. I don’t know why, but there is something pretty hypnotic about them when they pop out of nowhere in their black goggles. Though their skin is quite pasty and pale, but their uniforms look like they haven’t aged at all.
The lush scenery on the island ranges from the waterlogged swamps; rich beaches, dense forests and the large deserted hotel are quite haunting with the eerie feel of isolation and dread. The electronic score with its vibrant sounds, adds another element into the mix of the very absorbing mood of the atmosphere.
The direction by Ken Wiederhorn is a bit uneven and slow, but for me the slow pace really built up the anxiety and tension of the situation. With a slow opening, until the Death Corps arrive on the screen, though the pace doesn’t entirely pick up as there are slow parts in between the deaths. But the images we see keep you glued to the screen. Wiederhorn might have over-used the ‘Death Corps’, but somehow you forgive him for the repetitiveness.
The acting from Cushing and Carradine is superb and the rest of the mainly no-name cast was reasonably fair. As the characters they play are pretty stereotypical and one-dimensional. Peter Cushing as the enigmatic Nazi SS Commander that was formerly in-charge of the Death Corps, but is now a marooned hermit and John Carradine as the Boat’s grumpy Sea Captain Ben had only small roles and it was too bad that they didn’t share any screen time. But otherwise they still left their marks (especially Cushing’s speech on the Death Corps). While the lesser known cast Brooke Adams as the female lead in her first film is delightfully sweet and Luke Haplin as the Captains first mate takes the lead and the courageous heroine role.
The film itself is filled with ambiguity from beginning to end, but because of that it gives it a dreamlike and mysterious feel that you question did this really happen? It’s hardly flawless entertainment, but still a very charming low-budget horror film.