Slow-paced, sometimes interesting underwater zombie/ghost flick.
What we have here is an extremely hard-to-find Austrian/Yugoslavian 'underwater ghost/zombie' flick that, to my knowledge, was never released legitimately on DVD or VHS anywhere other than Argentina (who had a video released many years back through TVE) and Poland. I also can't find any verification online about whether it ever played theatrically or not. There's almost no information about this title even here at IMDb. It's very slow-going and probably of minimal interest to most because of that, but still has some merit and parts of it are interesting. And since there actually weren't that many zombie movies released during the 1970s (LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE, DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBI 2 being the three major ones), it's probably worth a look for die-hard zombie movie completists.
Watching a combination of American, British and European (French, Hungarian, German...) actors filling out the cast, all of whom speak English with varying degrees of success, makes it a bit hard to get a feel for the location. The plot (which reminded me of THE FOG with a little SHOCK WAVES thrown in) involves a series of mysterious murders plaguing a small, lakeside village in Austria. The local police (headed by Wolfgang Brook) are aided in their investigation by American psychic Bill Cross (Joel Fabiani), local writer Lisa Brueckner (Karin Dor) and others. The killer turns out to be a skull-faced zombie/ghost sea captain who resides in wreckage at the bottom of the lake during the day but sneaks up to the village at night to kill off the descendants of those responsible for his death years earlier. There's also some old backwoods witch with a raven on her shoulder who secretly leads a cult of young villagers. These scenes didn't seem to have a lot to do with the main plot line but they're colorful and do provide some gratuitous nudity.
First, the negatives... It takes about an hour to actually get a good look at the killer, and the first introduction of it (which should have been jarring) is a bit fumbled. ** It's extremely talky and some of the dialogue is terrible. ** The 'idiot plot' syndrome rears its ugly head quite a few times, especially when Dor's character - one of the killer's targets - is left alone out in the middle of a field while a mob goes off into the woods chasing after the killer. ** It's lacking in blood/gore aside from one underwater stabbing and a surprisingly gory decapitation complete with brains oozing out of the top of a head.
Now on to the better stuff... The acting is decent. ** It's well photographed, including some decent underwater photography. ** The village setting is atmospheric, and good use is made out of crumbling old churches and other buildings. ** The music score is excellent. ** The zombie design (from John Chambers and Tom Burman) is rather good. ** Despite the fact the zombie is kept off screen until near the end, the POV camera-work of a growling, heavy-breathing killer is well done and creepy, and good use is made of shadow on several occasions. ** Several of the deaths, while lacking in blood, are still effective and somewhat brutal, including a woman pushed out of a building and landing on a rocky embankment below.
There are certainly worse films out there, but there are also better ones. Still, if you're like me and love older zombie films or finding obscure films few people have seen, this is worth a watch. Director George Robotham is best known as a Hollywood stunt double for the likes of Rock Hudson, Clark Gable and John Wayne. DARK ECHOES marks his first and only film as director. He was married to lead actress Dor from 1988 until his death in 2007 from Alzheimer's complications.
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