Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Section 3: Oasis of the Zombies

Oasis of the Zombies

Welcome to Section 3, home to the near nasties and a voyage into the exploitation movies the kept the police in for many a Saturday night when they could have been arresting rapists and burglars.
This episode we venture back into familiar territory with a director who's filmography runs like a telephone book and contains more gratuitous ass and snatch shots than your average soft core porn flick. Nazi Zombies once again lope across the landscape in this offering from the man with a million names as we take a trip to the desert with the infamous Jess Franco to the 'Oasis of the Zombies'...

An Afrika corps unit transporting some of the nazi spoils of war is attacked while resting at an oasis by Alied forces. One Alied soldier, Robert, survives the attack only to be visited by a German treasure hunter, Kurt, who kills him after finding out the location of the oasis. When Roberts son
finds out about his fathers murder he and his friends decide to look for the treasure themselves. However they find there is something less welcome than treasure to be found as the oasis is inhabited by the dead Nazi soldiers who are still intent on guarding the gold.

Yep Jess is back and this time it's Nazi zombies that are his muse. Certainly one of the oddest areas of exploitation cinema is the Nazi zombie genre, I mean, how do you make histories number 1 bad guys even more repellent..... you have them be maggot infested corpses that still want to kill you.
I've spoken about the Nazisploitation genre a bit before, they are an almost semiotic sign for bad guy, a generic bastard that we can all recognise as being evil without any exposition needed. Essentially this means that they are kind of the fast food of the stock bad guy world, the Mc.Villain if you will, bland, shallow and doesn't take any thought to produce
Is Oasis of the Dead different in this regard?....not in the slightest. What we have with Oasis of the Zombies is more of the same when it comes to the bad guys...they're all German. Things do look up in some departments though. First off there is the fucli-esque feel to the zombies, they seem to be straight out of zombie flesh eaters which is a good thing in some respects if a little unimaginative. The zombies do also play second fiddle to the story which essentially boils down to a treasure hunt and it's only really at the last minute that the whole thing becomes the gut muncher one would expect. The story is very basic though manages to be quite confusing because of the flashback sequence which could have been presented a bit more clearly. It's confusing because it's so protracted that you forget that this stuff you're seeing is actually exposition and not part of the stories main narrative.

Story has never really been Franco's strength in these kind of knock of movies that he's well known for and Oasis of the zombies really doesn't make too much effort, or rather Franco doesn't seem to concentrate on the important aspects of the story which had they been more coherently handled may have made for a half decent, undemanding action film. What we have instead is a seriously rambling, story which is prone to half arsedly wandering around plot points, pausing on insignificant details and killing any pacing stone cold dead. There is no sense of rhythm with the film at all, it all jerks from one place to another and feels like some sort of Frankenstein's monster, stitched together crudely but somehow vaguely animated into a gross parody of what it should actually be.

For the most part it's standard Franco fare, cheap, nasty and it doesn't even have Franco's normal flare for cinematography. The dialogue is of course stilted and is often delivered by some very bored sounding dub actors. [clip]
the good guys in this film are pretty awful as well, they go off on what is clearly going to be a dangerous journey, totally unprepared and with an attitude that makes most of the teen camp councillors in any given slasher film seem like responsible and smart adults.

While this and many other things are clearly wrong with this movie, and believe me it makes bloody moon look like a multi million dollar production in comparison, it does actually carry a certain creepy air to it as well. There is a droning meandering bontempi sounding soundtrack that is quite incessant. Sometimes it works rather well, harking back to some earlier exploitation movies but it does also wander into the irritating as well as it just doesn't let up... for over three quarters of the movie.
For all it's faults, and they are the overwhelming feature of Oasis of the Zombies,the pay off's are occasionally not too bad. The war scenes are rather exciting, to the point that one wanders if they are borrowed from another movie, which is a little sad but possibly true. The zombies are well realised and though the pacing problems continue into these scenes as well it is only fair to recognise that the zombies are pretty damn creepy. But frankly it's all a bit too little way too late.

One wanders how is it that Franco could have done this as much as he did, constantly produce films that have some great ideas but end up being such a mess. Certainly the manufacturing line products that constitute the vast majority of his output have an air of simply being another days work farted out into the movie market, though Oasis of the zombies is by no means the worst of Franco's work. It does have something about it that indicates Franco may well have been slightly interested in the project but ultimately it's poor in almost every technical aspect and the artistic content is woefully low with only the occasional glimpse of the brilliance that Franco can on rare occasions throw out. The film as a whole is also way to dry and serious, sadly without reason, and isn't even as much fun as some of Franco's other work can be and unfortunately the final product is simply way too flawed to even be charming to some degree. The worst thing is that it simply drags it's leaden arse through it's surprisingly short runtime and magnifies each minute by a factor of 3, it's incredibly hard work to get through and the padding that you have to sit through just destroys any good will that is generated by the films highlights.
While I have just spent a fair time highlighting the faults of this movie and I realise it's not going to be one that many will rush to see now it has to be said that as these cheapo zombie films go Oasis of the Zombies could have been so much worse. Had it's pacing been kept tight and the story more efficient then it may have been at least a half decent movie despite it's lack of budget. Franco does deliver some horrific zombies and an exotic and unusual location for the action. It's look is unusual, it's sound bizarre but occasionally effective and if nothing else it's a rather decent take on the Nazi zombie sub genre.
Overall though I can't imagine too many people being able to appreciate this film even despite the occasional decent moments, it's just way too slow, way too choppy and feels like an amateur movie instead of being a film by a man who directed more movies at this point than almost any other director in the industry.

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