Monday, 29 July 2013

"They're coming from the sandwiches here!" (Oasis of the Zombies (1982))

From http://d3gtl9l2a4fn1j.cloudfront.net/t/p/w1280/zjmlP0M4hqtPEKJUD0OFYd2e36s.jpg

Dir. Jess Franco

Oasis of the Zombies is not a good film. But it's not as bad as its reputation suggests. It probably shows something dead in myself that I can think of plenty of films worse than this, not including controversial choices, but this film has virtues in it that just become lost in the final movie. The oasis is a place in the African Sahara where, during a skirmish in World War II, a large bullion of Nazi gold was lost in the ground. For anyone who is going to the oasis however - treasure hunters, the son of a British soldier who was at the original skirmish - they will encounter the living corpses of the Nazi soldiers who come up from the sand at night and kill those within the vicinity. The film still retains virtues of the late director Jess Franco, and plenty of aspects that are always there with an auteur, celebrated or a cult one, whose filmography shuffles between personal work and director of hire films that someone could still hide their ideas in and blur the lines between the two sides. It does look great at points visually despite its very low budget and the print quality of the version I viewed. It shows Franco had an exceptional visual eye when he allowed it to be used, reinforced by his better work like Succubus (1967), images of the silhouettes of zombies on top of sand dunes in the dusk and the sun blazing down upon them standing out for what was said to be an atrocious film when I was going into viewing it. For a generic zombie premise, it's a hell of a lot better than some of the ugliest, cheapest looking horror films I've managed to see, especially as it still had the virtue of actually being shot on celluloid than a cheap digital camera. I also have to appreciate the composer, or at least whoever was stuck playing the synth keyboard playing the same two notes. It'll put off a lot of people, but I have a fathomless passion for electronic and synth music, including most examples of the tackiest songs and scores ever made for films, and it felt like the keyboard player was trying their damndest to bring tension to the visuals onscreen when the film is dragging its feet. No matter how cheesy the zombie makeup looks, it's clear they were going to try and get the viewer to react to it in some way, and I have to applaud their attempt.

From http://www.mondo-digital.com/oasis3big.jpg

It's a typical Euro-horror film, an acquired taste, whose English dub provided me with the hilarious misheard quote that titles the review and comes off as incredibly ridiculous. The zombie makeup - pop eyes zombies who've come from a Guinness World Records attempt to have the furthest out a dislocated eye can be, a zombie with the head of the mask from George A. Romero's Bruiser (2000) - is silly, the set up for their attacks rudimentary and all of it coming off as very amusing. It's enjoyable if you can find this kind of bad horror filmmaking charming, sat from a distance looking at these actors having to raise out of the sand and lumber about, and engaged seeing the characters be attacked by the zombies in the tone of a b- or  c-movie. It's surprisingly chaste for a Jess Franco admittedly; there is some sex and violence, but it's very discrete, which is why the film's ended up with a 15 certificate in Britain. This is not the problem though with the film, very much adding to the peculiar nature of the movie. No, the problem with Oasis of the Zombies, that has likely been the reason why its viewed with such hatred justifiably, is because it has no sense of pace but just slogs along. For a film only eighty minutes long, it feels much longer. Moments, such as the prelude to the climax as zombies drift towards the protagonists' camp, show how the film's slow pace can be effective, but in the middle it's just laborious, with the sense of speed as a comatose snail. There is still plenty to like about the film around this, but this pace issue is a mood killer that damages the viewability of Oasis of the Zombies completely, spoiling the joyful moments with how dull it can be.

From http://www.avmaniacs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/oasis-two.jpg

This prevents the film from being a cheesy but fun minor entry in Franco's filmography. People would still hate it for its failings, but it would have been schlock with some merit and things to amuse one's self about. The pace disrupts the final film however and makes it difficult to enjoy it fully. The result is fascinating as a failure in Franco's CV, both that is, to be honest, a job for hire that could have still been entertaining, and a film still containing his distinct voice, but it cannot be ignored how tiresome it gets when its going nowhere in the middle section. It would be amusing schlock if it was better, but it's a mess as it is even if I've subjected myself to worse.

From http://unobtainium13.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/oasis-of-the-zombies.jpg?w=540

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