Shock Waves (VHS)

Ummm…hmm.  Here’s a film lots of people wonder about.  And if they’ve seen it, they usually rave about it.  “Oh shit Shock Waves,” they’ll say, most likely.  In fact I (editor) can remember my brother and I at the old rental place always wondering about it, but for some reason never checking it out in spite of the PG rating.  Plus, Ken Wiederhorn was the director, and everyone knows how awesome Return of the Living Dead Part II was.  Luckily, stuff like Blood Feast caught our attention first so we never got to watch it.  In fact, that probably saved us an hour and a half of our childhood happiness.  And I sadly convinced the wife to watch this one with me recently, so that hour and a half of childhood happiness was then spent on marital happiness, and that’s always a bad idea.  Oops.  She’s not too keen on movies that frighten her, so I figured, hey, honey, this is PG, so let’s give it a shot because I can sell the tape for some cash if it’s not what I always dreamed.  Dreams are often not reality, neither are nightmares.  This doesn’t even earn enough respect via hatred to be a nightmare, it’s just suck qua suck.  Really a shame, because you’d think a movie with Peter Cushing in it would at least be watchable, but this is barely even a one-time thing.  It’s a no-time thing.  If you want to see a water zombie movie, you’re better off going for Zombie Lake, because you’ll actually enjoy how bad it is. Some people refer to this as the “best Nazi zombie film ever made.” Since there’s only like ten such films, that’s not saying much.  Anyone want to buy a cool-looking VHS copy? 

What makes it even worse is that Shock Waves starts out with a lot going for it.  Just look at that art, killer, simply killer.  The US-release title, great, subtle, yet literal in the film, we like it.  The cast, well, there’s Peter Cushing, John Carradine, and Brooke Adams, and that’s about it, but it’s all good.  The plot, great, awesome idea.  The Nazis created special corps of soldiers called the Death Corps, and there were different types for different environments.  One of those types were meant specifically for water missions, and the last group of them went astray during WWII and their commander, played by Peter Cushing, realized what they were and sunk the ship they were on into the sea, living the rest of his life in an abandoned hotel nearby on a small island.  The main group of victims is on a mini cruise, their boat encounters bizarre natural phenomena (which are never explained, by the way, just happen for whatever reason), and then a ghost ship causes them to almost wreck and they find this mysterious island nearby.  So hey, that’s a pretty cool idea.  But what’s amazing is how little they do with the details, and that’s where something needed to happen.  Here’s why.


The film opens with the last survivor of the assumed tragedy, so it starts out by letting the viewer know exactly what’s coming, since she’s the only survivor (Brooke Adams in the role).  Thus, it takes a huge risk with itself, and it’s a risk that requires extremely careful filming and development to work.  Since you know everyone but her is going to die, the goal then is to make the film sufficiently scary and disturbing in the process to get to that end goal of seeing how she’s the last.  That’s the unfortunate thing, Shock Waves gives you very little to care about and it doesn’t seem aware of what it’s doing.  There’s the island, there’s Cushing, there’s the Death Corps, let’s just call them water zombies, there’s the main actress, and there’s the people who will die.  And they die.  And that’s about it.  After the main plot is set and you know what’s happening, it’s just a slow death figuratively and literally.  The build-up to the island is tedious, though deliberate, but by the time they get there and you know what’s happening, hey, it’s then time to actually do something with it.  But nothing really happens.  The Death Corps soldiers are simply another rendition of the zombie theme, wandering aimlessly for the most part, and other than a few moments where tension is properly built you’d be better off scaring yourself by loosening the screws on a bicycle and going down a hill.  Really the only scenes worth seeing are when some of the Death Corps are walking under water, or a few of a the scenes, well-timed might we add, where they come up out of the sea in succession.  But that hardly makes a fine movie overall.  For such a promising idea and cast, it’s really quite a shame to see such little done with it.


Written by Stanley Stepanic

Shock Waves
Prism Video
3 / 5