Shock Waves (film)

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Shock Waves
Directed byKen Wiederhorn
Produced byReuben Trane[1]
Screenplay by
  • John Harrison
  • Ken Wiederhorn[1]
Music byRichard Einhorn[1]
CinematographyReuben Trane[1]
Edited byNorman Gay[1]
  • Lawrence Friedricks Enterprises
  • Zopix Company[1]
Release date
  • 21 September 1977 (1977-09-21) (Los Angeles)
Running time
86 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]

Shock Waves is a 1977 American horror film written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn. The film is about a group of tourists who encounter aquatic Nazi zombies when they become shipwrecked. It stars Peter Cushing as a former SS commander, Brooke Adams as a tourist, and John Carradine as the captain of the tourists' boat.


The film opens as Rose is found drifting alone in a small rowboat. Two fishermen find it and pull her onto their own boat, barely alive and in a horrible state. Her voiceover indicates she had been rescued from some terrifying experience and the film's events are flashbacks of it.

Young and pretty, Rose is part of a group of tourists on a small commercial boat run by a crusty old captain and his handsome mate, Keith. Also on board are Dobbs, who is the boat's cook; Chuck, another tourist; and a bickering married couple named Norman and Beverly. After trouble with the engine, the navigation system goes haywire when they encounter a strange orange haze. The others sense that something is wrong. Norman in particular becomes abrasive. In the darkness of night, a hulking ship suddenly appears and sideswipes their boat. The Captain sends up a flare, which momentarily lights up the eerie sight of a huge, rotting vessel wrecked nearby.

The next morning, everyone wakes to find the Captain missing. Realizing the boat is slowly taking on water, everyone evacuates in the lifeboat and makes for a nearby island. They see the huge wreck in the light of day; it appears to have been there for decades, nothing more than a skeletal framework, and now seemingly immobile, stranded on the island's reef. The group is startled to find the body of the Captain, apparently drowned while he was trying to check the underside of the boat for damage. They explore the island and discover a large, rundown hotel. At first they think it is deserted, but they discover a reclusive old man living there.

The man seems alarmed by their story, and he goes down to the beach to personally investigate. Under the water, strange zombie-like men gather, walking from the wreck along the ocean floor to the island. As Dobbs gathers items to help prepare food, the zombies corner him in the water and one of them attacks; before it kills him, Dobbs falls in a cluster of sea urchins and is horribly mangled. Rose discovers his body while swimming. Back inside the hotel, their reluctant host tells them that he was a Nazi commander in charge of the "Death Corps", a group of aquatic zombies. The creatures were intended to be a powerful weapon for the Nazis, but they proved too difficult to control. When Germany lost the war, he sank their ship. Knowing the zombies have returned, he says they are doomed. The Commander goes down to the beach again and sees a few of the zombies off in the distance; they refuse to obey and drown him.

The others locate a boat that the Commander told them about and pilot it out through the streams to the open water. They lose control of the boat, and it sails away from them, empty. A zombie drowns Norman in a stream, and another chases Rose back to the hotel, where she kills it by pulling off its goggles. Chuck, Beverly, and Keith return to the hotel, and they barricade themselves in the refrigerator unit. The close quarters and stress cause the survivors to begin infighting, and Chuck accidentally fires a flare gun, blinding Beverly. Keith and Rose escape to an old furnace room, where they hide inside two metal grates, while Beverly hides in a closet. The zombies drown Chuck in a swimming pool outside.

The next morning, Keith and Rose discover Beverly dead, drowned in a large fish tank. Now on their own, they try to escape in a small sightseeing rowboat with a glass bottom. The zombies attack, and although Keith manages to defeat one by pulling off its goggles, a second one grabs him and drowns him just as the dinghy breaches the reef and drifts free. Rose sees Keith's lifeless body pressed up against the glass bottom of the boat and screams.

The film comes full circle, and Rose's voiceover returns. She is now in a hospital bed, seemingly writing in a journal. Her dialogue begins to repeat itself over and over, and she is revealed to be writing nonsense in her journal, showing that she has gone insane.



Prior to making Shock Waves, producer Reuben Trane and director Ken Wiederhorn were students at Columbia University in New York City where they won the 1973 Academy Award for Best Dramatic Student Film.[1] Their next work was filming Shock Waves as their first commercial feature film.[1] Principal photography on the film began in July 1975, shooting in 16mm, which was later blown up to 35mm.[1]

In an issue of Cinemagic magazine, the film was being shot under the title Death Corps in Miami and West Palm Beach Florida in 1975 with a budget of $150,000.[1] The swamp scenes in the film were shot near Miami's Crandon Park. It was later noted in the Los Angeles Times in 1978, that the filmmakers raised $200,000 to complete the film.[1]


Shock Waves was shown in Los Angels on 21 September 1977.[1] The film was released in the United Kingdom as Almost Human.[2]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS by Prism Entertainment and, later, Starmaker in the 1980s and on a special edition DVD by Blue Underground in 2003, from which it was sourced from the director's personal collection as the original negative is believed to be lost.[3]

To promote the film's Blu-ray release, Blue Underground re-released the film theatrically in November 2014.[4]


From contemporary reviews, Tom Milne of the Monthly Film Bulletin found that the zombie nazis looked "agreeably sinister when they first emerge from the bottom of the sea with dripping hair, hideously scarred faces and uniform dark glasses" but that the films "inadequate budget is all too evident [...] both script and direction are also much too ready to settle for simple repetitions: a sizeable chunk of the footage is devoted to assorted characters stumbling through swampy shallows out of which, naturally, zombies emerge with sinister intent."[2]

From retrospective reviews, Mike Long of DVD Talk rated it 3/5 stars and wrote, "Horror fans looking for a zombie gorefest will be quite disappointed by "Shock Waves", but those who want a subtle and unique experience may enjoy this quirky low-budget film."[5] Oktay Ege Kozak, also writing at DVD Talk, rated it 1/5 stars and wrote, "Shock Waves is a cheap, uninteresting, and entirely too forgettable genre effort from the 70s, a decade that otherwise revitalized horror cinema."[6] Patrick Bromley of DVD Verdict wrote, "More concerned with atmosphere than with shocks, it avoids a number of what would become the cliches of the genre; the flip side of that coin is that it delivers little of what we want from a zombie film."[7] Patrick Naugle, also writing at DVD Verdict, called it repetitious and boring.[8] Writing in Horror Movies of the 1970s, critic John Kenneth Muir called it a "low budget exploitation film with a ludicrous B-movie premise" that works due to Wiederhorn's direction.[9] Peter Dendle, who wrote The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, said, "Shock Waves offers an undeniably creative and innovative approach to the screen presentation of the zombie, at the height of the post-Night decade in which such innovation was most lacking."[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Shock Waves". American Film Institute. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b Milne, Tom (June 1979). "Almost Human". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 46 no. 545. British Film Institute. p. 116.
  3. ^ Reesman, Brian (November 1, 2003). "Horror DVDs Enjoy Frightfully Good Sales". Billboard. 115 (44): 76.
  4. ^ Turek, Ryan (2014-11-03). "Blue Underground Brings Shock Waves Back to Theaters!". Shock Till You Drop. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  5. ^ Long, Mike (2002-08-13). "Shock Waves". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  6. ^ Kozak, Oktay Ege (2014-11-05). "Shock Waves (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  7. ^ Bromley, Patrick (2014-11-14). "Shock Waves (1977) (Blu-ray)". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  8. ^ Naugle, Patrick (2002-12-05). "Shock Waves". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  9. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2002). Horror Films of the 1970s. McFarland & Company. pp. 70–72. ISBN 9780786491568.
  10. ^ Dendle, Peter (2001). The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. McFarland & Company. pp. 159–161. ISBN 978-0-7864-9288-6.

External links[edit]