The Bonaventure on a Caribbean diving cruise meets the SS Toten Korps, an army of the dead.
A mad wretch survives in a lifeboat, drifting away from the jungle island where the former officer in command of the submarine league occupies a derelict hotel.
The troops were sunk at the end of the war, the hulk is raised by undersea currents onto the reef.
Blond, black-goggled soldiers emerge from the water, light in their eyes corrupts their flesh and they die.
An excellent nightmare akin to Gordon’s Empire of the Ants, Yates’ The Deep, Ritchie’s The Island, Siegel’s The Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Kaufman’s version, and Huston’s Moby Dick, among many others.
Eyes of a Stranger
The first shot is a stunner, as it resumes Wiederhorn’s Shock Waves on the Florida seacoast. The photographer among the mangroves might be the director himself, shooting picturesquely until a body turns up in the viewfinder, just beneath the surface.
The placid young woman gets an obscene phone call repeated just enough to set a tone of particularity. Her boyfriend arrives and watches Shock Waves on television. They’re murdered most gruesomely, as Shock Waves fills the screen.
Wiederhorn has an eye for Florida sunlight, and another for compositions. He gives a crucial tone of surrealism (a dead giveaway, really) by allowing lights in his night exteriors to blur into semi-abstractions.
The last victim is a blind and mute girl who regains her faculties when she’s assaulted (I fancy this is a recollection of The Angry Breed).
After a middle section plainly derived from Rear Window, the news correspondent turns the tables on the culprit.
The setup of those lights pays off in a beautiful punchline of rather epical nudes, notably at a strip joint.
The finale has a tinge of Renoir’s Une Partie de Campagne, and also Wait Until Dark. Wiederhorn’s skill can be seen at the end, when the correspondent shoots the culprit in slo-mo, and the “shattered” look of the effect is subsumed in the shattered shower door he falls through.
The last shot has him dead with a bullet through his brain, lying face-up in the shower stall, like Janet Leigh avenged at last.
Meatballs Part II
Wiederhorn has lots of material to work with, and he does so with exquisite skill. The general order of satire is akin to Animal House with its rival frats, here it’s Camp Sasquatch vs. Camp Patton (”Where Outdoor Living Breeds Killers”), and this immediately puts him in view of Up the Academy and Stripes (John Larroquette serves once again).
There’s a spaceman and a bear, the former a send-up of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and the latter a Shakespearean plot device. Wiederhorn screens his own Shock Waves for the children’s edification and then offers a droll allusion to it.
Now, the source of all this is MASH, which is distinctly recalled, or Horse Feathers. The secret of Wiederhorn’s vision is revealed at the end in a cosmic perspective right out of Tex Avery.
Return of the Living Dead Part II
It’s not enough to say, with the New Economy, that no-one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the world’s public. It takes an artist to explain these things—not that H.L. Mencken wasn’t an artist, but we’re talking about cinema here.
Graverobbers, military experiments, these are the McGuffin. Causation and effectuality aren’t strictly speaking in play, which is what a McGuffin means. The whole point is merely to grab the entire issue and present it on the screen. Between the quick and the dead is a great gulf fixed, but abyssus abyssum invocat, you know.
Wiederhorn’s children are children, his suburbia suburban—he mocks the worthy targets, like aerobics tapes. You can run through the litany of pregnant models for the work, from The Ten Commandments to The Twilight Zone (“Mr. Garrity and the Graves”), but his evocations have the luster of very precise appreciation, he isn’t building anything.
The real articulation is in the splicing of shot on shot, the patient assembling of cinema with a great guffaw.