Toward the end of World War II, Allied soldiers began to encounter SS squads who could kill with their bare hands and seemed indestructible. No member of these units was ever captured and rumors abounded that Nazi High Command had harnessed the Dark Arts to create a race of super soldiers. It appears that one such unit still survives today, somewhere in the Florida Keys.
A group’s diving vacation goes horribly awry when a decrepit ship, scuttled decades ago rises from the deep, wrecking their boat and stranding them on a small island. There, they discover a mysterious hermit (Peter Cushing), who knows all too well the horror that has been drudged up from the depths.
This classic zombie flick is a classic example of creepy 1970s horror. It’s hard to call this movie “scary”, but it is definitely atmospheric and has some tense moments – highlighted by a final onslaught by the zombies as the terrified survivors look for a place to hide and then a way to escape. There is a bit of campiness to it, but it’s understated and works well with the rest of the whole.
Cushing is underutilized, but John Carradine makes a great salty old sea captain pandering to spoiled tourists. The other characters are largely two-dimensional, but work well in their roles. You know: brave second mate, longtime mariner who is now the cook who has heard all the sea’s tales, middle-aged vacationers with flaky wife and grumpy husband, hot chick and guy who is almost as tough as he thinks he is.
There isn’t much here that’s new. Some of it may have been done better, but this film has all of the elements – creepy, minimalist score that will stay with you, ominous scenes instead of scenes of abject terror – that made both the genre and the period great.