Fear Flashback Friday: ‘Oasis of the Zombies’

Fear Flashback Friday is a semi-regular review column of classic and not-so-classic horror films/books/TV shows. They won’t all be winners.

“Let’s find some bottles and make Molotov cocktails. Like in school!”

This is a terrible movie.  Not just bad, but actively terrible.  The acting is atrocious, the script manages to be both minimal and confusing, the cinematography is flat and uninspiring (with one or two exceptions) and the camera work is actively painful to watch.  Add to that some truly amateurish dubbing, an annoying electronic score and editing that lingers over crappy zooms, but cuts too quickly from anything interesting and you start to wonder if the filmmakers just hated moviegoers.

How bad was it?  Bad enough that when I turned it off I sat and watched a few minutes of Friday the 13th: A New Beginning to ENJOY THE QUALITY OF FILMMAKING.  At least Oasis of the Zombies gave me that – the ability to appreciate simple, workmanlike productions.

I know a few people for whom Oasis (aka Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies – an altogether more punchy title) is in the ‘so bad it’s good’ territory, but I just can’t find that marble in the oatmeal. I enjoyed Zombie Lake more than this, dodgy green makeup and all.

The Medium

Oasis of the Zombies is streaming on Midnight Pulp. This is actually the second time I’ve seen this movie and the quality of the copy on MP is actually much better than previous DVD releases (looking at you – again – Cheezy Flicks). This is probably due to the Kino Lorber/Redemption Blu-ray release. Yes, there was a Blu-ray release. Yes I’ve watched this movie twice. Some things can’t be explained.

The Movie

The story of Oasis of the Zombies as much as I can make it out, goes like this: In the middle of WWII, a British patrol is tasked with hunting down a mysterious German army convoy somewhere in the deserts of North Africa.  After following their path of destruction (they apparently kill any natives they come across in order to hide their movements – because leaving a trail of destruction and corpses is the best way to do that) for weeks, the Brits find an oasis where the Nazis have been, but have not yet “finished the job.”  Knowing they’ll be back, the Brits set up an ambush. In the ensuing carnage only the British captain escapes – wounded and delirious – into the desert.

This part is interesting enough that it probably came from another movie.

 

He’s nursed back to health by the daughter of a local sheik, with whom he has an affair (the daughter, not the sheik).  When he’s well enough, the Captain wants to return to the oasis to find out what happened to his men, but the sheik informs him that everyone – German and British – perished during the battle, and that now the locals avoid the oasis as cursed ground.  Accepting the sheik’s word, the Captain returns to the British army and spends two more years at war.  Returning after the end of hostilities, he finds that the sheik’s daughter has perished giving birth to his son.  Chagrined, he takes the boy with him back to the UK and somehow ends up in Italy (at least I think it’s Italy), where he tells everyone that his son is adopted.

You know what? I have no idea why I’m writing this out in such detail. Maybe because of the effort it took me to piece this together out of the convoluted narrative. It really doesn’t deserve that level of interest, so here’s the abbreviated version:

First, two women make a 15 hour drive to the oasis for no good reason.  They find old Nazi stuff and complain to each other in terrible dubbing. The dubbing is so atrocious that they’re attacked by zombies. Well – I assume they’re zombies. It’s really just a pair of hands in the sand.

Seriously. It’s just hands in the sand.

 

Then it’s WWII and an Afrika Korps patrol carrying a fortune in gold is ambushed by a British patrol at an oasis in the desert.  Don’t ask which one – the sand all looks the same anyway.

Back in the “present” (1981) the only survivor – a British Captain – is approached by a former German officer named Kurt with an offer.  The plan is to go to the oasis, using the Brit’s maps, to get the gold.  Why the British Captain didn’t go looking for it before is never explained, but maybe he’s afraid of being killed by Germans.  If so, he has good reason, because he’s betrayed by Kurt with a poison that kills him in about 2 seconds.

Right in the middle of a slap.

 

The British Captain’s son (from the affair with a sheik’s daughter after the oasis slaughter – what happens in generic desert country, stays in generic desert country) receives notice of his father’s death and travels to… Spain, maybe? Actually, I think I heard someone say Tripoli, so let’s say Libya.  There he reads his father’s journal explaining all that stuff about the desert, Nazis, gold, sheik’s daughter hanky panky, etc.

He convinces a number of school mates to join him on the journey to (insert North African desert country here) to find the gold.  Oh, and his grandfather the sheik, his mother having died in childbirth.  See, it’s really a story about this one kid’s journey of self-enlightenment.  He’s learning who he really is!  There’s subtext, really!

Don’t look at me like that!

 

Meanwhile, Kurt and his crew manage to find the Oasis and set up camp, only to be attacked by the zombies. This is the first extended sequence with the zombies and they appear to have had plastic bags melted over their faces. There’s one prop dummy head that’s a little better done, but it’s obviously just the head – maybe the rest got burned when they melted the plastic bags on the other guys.

Least cheesy shot of said dummy head.

 

Back to the disaffected youth – they’re doing the tourist thing in the markets and stepping over Muslims during prayers. Along the way they come across a film crew with a professor and a woman who was willing to get naked on camera. And Kurt. Poor Kurt.

Kurt has managed to escape the carnage, but not without being bitten. He stumbles around, raves on about the walking dead and screams a lot before dying suddenly in a pile of straw. The kid immediately recognizes him and knows him as the guy that killed his father, despite never seeing him before and Kurt committing the crime with no one around. Then the locals burn Kurt’s body in the convenient pile of straw.

“That really is a convenient place for him to have died.”

 

The kids find the Sheik, who has managed to steal Omar Sharif’s mustache. He gives them directions to the Oasis, mostly, I think, because he finds the kids annoying and is hoping zombies attack them. SPOILER  ALERT. Zombies attack them.

The kids find the Oasis and also the film crew from earlier. It’s a hidden oasis, 15 hours from anywhere, but people keep stumbling across it somehow – it must be on the way to a Starbucks or something. Anyway, the professor and Maryanne – er – the girl who doesn’t mind getting naked, are still alive. The kids somehow talk them into staying and looking for the Nazi gold and soon everyone is smiling and having a good time while digging graves for the cameraman and sound guy.

I wish I was kidding.

 

Inevitably the zombies arrive again, with some of the most effective shots of the movie. They’re… dammit, they’re almost good. It’s the same 5 or 6 zombies coming up over sand dunes several times, but they’re shot well and it’s pretty creepy. Unfortunately, it’s like finding a piece of hamburger in a crap sandwich – it somehow makes everything else worse by showing you what you COULD be eating.

Atmospheric. Creepy. In focus. Dammit, people!

 

The kids try to fight off the zombies with fire – leading to the second most awesome line in the movie, that opening quote about the Molotov cocktails. What kind of school were these kids going to, anyway? It all goes horribly wrong and only the lead kid and his girlfriend manage to make it to sunrise (when the zombies go away) and then fall unconscious. The Sheik shows up – and his mustache has mysteriously gotten bigger, as if it were feeding on him somehow. Anyway, the Sheik finds them and says “did you find what you were looking for?” Which seems like kind of a dick thing to say, if you ask me.

And then the closing line, the cherry on this shit sundae, “I mainly found myself.”

Aaaanddd…. Scene! Cut! Print! Good job everyone!

The Mustache is pleased!

 

The Bottom Line

I watched it so you don’t have to. Now go watch Shock Waves instead.