The Sci-Fi Zombie Horror With Star Wars Icon Is A Hidden Gem, Stream Without Netflix

By Brian Myers | Published

When Star Wars: A New Hope was released in 1977, several renowned British actors joined the cast of rookie American players. One of the standouts from the film was Peter Cushing, who played Death Star Commander Grand Moff Tarkin. But the actor played another screen villain that year when he portrayed a former Nazi commander in the horror classic Shock Waves.

Peter Cushing Returns To Horror

Shock Waves certainly wasn’t Peter Cushing’s first rodeo in a horror film. The British actor rose to fame in the 1950s, playing opposite Christopher Lee in a series of bloody fright films with the former Hammer Studios. The duo acted in a range of films that included entries in the Frankenstein and Dracula novel adaptations, where Cushing played the protagonist, and Lee typically played a villain or a monster.

It’s A Zombie Movie

Shock Waves opens with a woman drifting in a rowboat in the open sea. Several fishermen pull her into a fishing boat and rescue her from the sea. This sets up a plot device in which the young woman, Rose, is able to tell the men the terrifying events of the last several days of her life.

Rose and a handful of other tourists were on a recreational craft when the engine failed and left them adrift at sea. A creepy orange haze envelopes the boat as it collides with a cargo ship that seems to rise from the water. After abandoning the tour boat and seeking refuge on a nearby island, Rose and her companions discover the horrifying secret that the island’s lone occupant (Peter Cushing) has been hiding from the world (hint: he helped create a group of zombies for the SS).

Zombies Like You Haven’t Seen Before

Shock Waves is where the occult conspiracy theories that surround WWII Nazis combine with the nightmare of having the undead walk the Earth. The panic of isolation is woven into the tangible fears of the zombie horde that begins to walk on the island, overtaking the stranded tourists one by one. There are some mild jump scares, but the real fear the film is able to invoke is the reality that these poor souls are trapped with pursuers who are as evil as they are cunning.

The zombies in Shock Waves are a pleasant departure from those in other zombie films of the era. The lumbering, brain and flesh-hungry hordes from Dawn of the Dead and Zombie are replaced with intelligent versions of the undead. Their ability to seemingly plan coordinated attacks, as well as act with pure malice rather than out of instinctual hunger, elevate them to a new level of horror monster.

Streaming On Multiple Sites


Shock Waves takes a brilliant and innovative zombie concept but throws these creatures amid a plotline that is as unbelievable as it is contrived. Apart from the zombies, Cushing’s portrayal of a former SS commander is perfection. The film also has a stand-out performance from Brooke Adams (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Dead Zone) as Rose.

Shock Waves is certainly worth a look if you like zombie films, but I rate it overall well below any Romero or Fulci entry in the genre at only 3.0/5.0 stars. If you’re curious, the film can be streamed on Peacock, Tubi, Pluto, Amazon, and Night Flight.