Combat Shock!

Fighting, killing, maiming. Agent orange and the torture cages were the easy part!


Welcome to a nightmarish, nihilistic look at a combat-shocked Vietnam vet’s last miserable day on Earth. Frankie lives in a shithole apartment in NYC with his horribly rancid and nagging wife and his hideously deformed and shrieking baby. Little Frankie junior is a rather revolting side effect of Frankie’s exposure to Agent Orange while fighting, maiming, and killing in the fields of Vietnam. Frankie had a run of bad luck in Nam that included being falsely accused of slaughtering the denizens of a sleeping village, and being captured and tortured by the V.C.

Agent Orange and torture cages were the easy part! Frankie’s real struggle for survival begins when he escapes and the nightmare follows him back home. Frankie is haunted by grisly flashbacks of the many atrocities he witnessed in Vietnam. He’s also unable to find work, and his impoverished family slowly begins starving to death. To add insult to injury, Frankie spends most of what ultimately becomes his final day wasting away in an unemployment line. As he slowly makes his way to and from the unemployment office, he rubs elbows with a haggard assortment of humanity that includes jive talkin’ pimps, starving child prostitutes, motorcycle riding skanks, strung out former friends willing to do anything to feed their habits, and the neighborhood dope dealer and his murderous thugs.

The battlefield may have changed, but the war was still on. When finally pushed beyond his breaking point, Frankie decides that only death can bring salvation from the horror of reality. Frankie’s enemies and loved ones alike find that salvation at the end of a gun. Street trash are shot to pieces, a pregnant woman takes lead in her stomach, and a screeching infant is blasted and then put in an oven. After a busy and productive day spent saving lives, the soldier of misfortune settles down at his kitchen table with a tall glass of rotten milk and contemplates his future.

There are few films that are as totally hopeless as COMBAT SHOCK. This movie is absolutely vicious in its desire to shock and horrify. It’s incredibly effective because it’s totally based in grim, uncompromising reality. The events and characters of this film are all sketches of the real life victims of poverty, drug addiction, violence, and warfare. Writer, producer, and director Buddy Giovinazzo has my highest respect for making such a brutal and shocking film. It almost defies criticism in my eyes because it feels so fucking real. I consider this one to be one of the very best combat films ever made because it delves much deeper into the horrible aftermath than any other film I’ve seen. There were untold numbers of Vietnam vets that came home from the war and faced the same sort of problems adjusting back into society. It’s a problem that persists to this day. The headlines of today frequently feature stories of battle scared soldiers that return home from the Gulf or Afghanistan and wind up going on a killing spree, often slaying their own families. “Combat Shock” was, and will always be a film that speaks the truth about the brutality of warfare and poverty.

There are other genre flicks that can easily top “Combat Shock” in terms of splatter, but few can come close to matching the sheer overwhelming gut-punch that this one delivers. “Combat Shock” could accurately be called the bastard stepchild of “Eraserhead” & “Taxi Driver.” The film plays out very slowly, much like a nightmare, and the films’ alternate title “American Nightmares” is more than appropriate. Any complaints about the slack, dream-like pacing of the beginning of the film should be erased the minute a junkie attempts to shoot up with a coat hanger. The Vietnam footage is also especially gruesome and features plenty of blasted-off limbs, severed heads, and gutted corpses. The sheer amount of bone crunching action that is packed into such a low budget, homemade horror flick is amazing. The majority of the ultra-violent Vietnam footage was shot in Buddy’s backyard, which must have led to some very interesting conversations with the neighbors

Giovinazzo makes good use of rapid fire editing and cheap but interesting looking visual effects that put viewers inside the damaged mind of our hero. “Combat Shock” is highly effective as a character study, and it obviously works big time as an exploitation flick. Rick Giovinazzo (Buddy’s brother) also deserves special praise for his captivating, low-key starring performance. He carries the entire film from start to finish, and his final scenes are chilling. The ending of this flick never fails to turn my stomach, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. This isn’t exactly what you would call a “feel good” sort of film, but I consider it a must see flick for sick fucks with a taste for truly shocking sleaze.

COMBAT SHOCK has a well deserved reputation for being one of the most notorious independent films of the clas-sick VHS era. The good folks at Troma have been spreading the misery of “Combat Shock” on home video for years. Their latest urban assault was an incredible 2-disc uncut 25thanniversary edition that includes an arsenal of bonus features. The goodies include two versions of the film, a director’s commentary, an all-new documentary exploring the impact and legacy of the film, never before released short films and early music videos, and a slew of exclusive interviews. A dvd collection without a copy of this one is shit to me so buy or die.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: