Combat Shock (1984) Poster

(1984)

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8/10
A gritty film about a Viet-Nam veteran who cannot adjust to civilian life.
Captain_Couth3 November 2004
Combat Shock (1986) was a low budget film about a battle scarred veteran who just cannot erase the memories of his horrific experinces in Viet-Nam. He's also having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. The economy is in the dumps and unemployment is at an all time high in his area. With a family to support and no hope, the surrounding environment and his family's fianancial problems begin to take a toll upon his sanity and well being.

Buddy Giovinazzo has created a grim and gritty look about life in the inner city and for those veterans who were one of the few to escape from the bloody jungles of Viet-Nam seemingly unscathed. But he has wounds that are not visible to the naked eye. Abandoned by society and the government that he served, he represents a lot of people who were ignored when they returned back to the "world".

I have to recommend this film for people who want to see a another side of life. One where people struggle to survive by preying on the weak. They can also bear witness to the life that surprisingly many Viet-Nam era veterans lived with when

their tour of duty and time with the military was completed. According to several interviews with the director, he has stated that he did a lot of research on the topic. A perfect companion piece to this film would be "Deadbeat by Dawn".

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8/10
one of the darkest films ever put on screen
hellraiser4014 July 2002
where "Requiem for a Dream" was the best movie in the category "drug movies", i think that this one certainly can competitor with other movies for best "post-war drama".

not that this is a perfect movie. it is still a low budget movie, a very low budget movie in fact, but that gives this movie just that specific feel and gritty look. really nothing is uplifting here. it's a story about a man who has experienced Vietnam, where he was tortured and went berserk. now, back home, where he lives with his wife and his deformed son, thanks to the fact that he has been in touch with Agent Orange, he just cannot get his life back on the rails and this movie portrays one day where everything seems to get as worse as it can be. we follow him from the morning, where he has again a terrible nightmare about Vietnam (he has hallucinations and flashbacks throughout the day) until the evening, where the film ends in a shocking way.

the acting is maybe not always top notch, but every character in this movie feels totally believable. the special effects and gore are low budget, but again believable and effective. maybe that's why the Troma people decided to pick this movie up and started to sell this movie as a Troma movie. or maybe they were looking for at least 1 movie so that they could say "hey, we are also producing serious flicks!!" you can say what you want, but i think it was great to give this movie a chance, it deserves it.

not a commercial movie, no, a very dark, convincing story about a man who lives a life we all want to avoid. this is not going to appeal to every person, but please, give it a shot. when you do so, you're in for a movie experience you will remember.
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8/10
Fictional soldier-in-poverty film is strong and powerful on fact.
emm24 December 1998
What another guilty pleasure this is! And a truly incredible one! COMBAT SHOCK is not what you'd expect from Troma, but it doesn't matter anyway. This is a strong and powerful account of Frankie, a former American P.O.W. in Saigon facing a harsh dilemma of society and family matters back home following the war. It's all based on true experiences with very disturbing levels of detail, and does become nerve-shattering. There possibly has never been a film that could deliver a high amount of intensifying power like this before, even outweighing its minimal plot and graphic violence. While some will find the infant looking like a stupid clone of E.T., others will worry about its povertic and dying state, but the character becomes a victim in its notorious shocking ending. This was the first "Tromatized" movie I've seen, and it sure ain't like the rest of 'em! A rock solid independent outing from Buddy G, whose brother plays the leading role as Frankie. Low budget, but delivers powerful meaning. Asks the all-important question of the hour: "Where will you be tomorrow?". Highly recommended!
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Shocking and depressing
chanelit-115 August 2003
The film opens to a flashback of the Vietnam war and in particular, one soldier's plights of that war - it is a horrible intense sequence. As the movie progresses, we get to see what has happened to that solider. He is now living with a nagging wife and deformed baby son on the extreme poverty line in New York City. They haven't eaten for days and he wanders the streets, trying to look for work with no luck at all.

He suffers flashbacks and hallucinations throughout the film, where he is being tortured in 'Nam and then his supposed recovery in a hospital after. He is cut off from the world and desperate for money. We then meet one of his friends, a drug addict who is in equal dire straits. At one point, the addict uses a coat hanger to open his vein and pour in the drug whilst he bleeds - a truly horrifying moment.

This is very strong stuff. It has no budget but that somehow suits the story - it's totally gritty and real, no gloss whatsoever. It's probably the bleakest, most depressing film I've ever seen and all I can say is, if you're having a bad day or work or a bad day in general, just see what happens to this guy!

I got the excellent Troma DVD release which features the full uncut Director's version - the only one really worth seeing.

I don't know if I'd exactly recommend this; it's so hard going that it sure ain't entertainment, but it does have an appeal and is worth watching. However, if you're not used to zero-budget horror, avoid at all costs.
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10/10
Deeply disturbing and pessimistic film.
HumanoidOfFlesh29 August 2004
"Combat Shock" stars Ricky Giovinazzo as Frankie Dunlan,a depressed Vietnam veteran living a meaningless life in Staten Island.With no money,no job and little hope,Frankie takes to the streets,shocked by the depravity of the neighborhood-of childhood friends turned junkies and prostitutes.The viewer watches Frankie meander through his bleak existence before a bloody and nihilistic finale that is not for the squeamish."Combat Shock" is a deeply disturbing film that left me stunned.The cast of unknowns is fine and the direction is well-handled.The film is filled with incredibly dirty and depressing atmosphere of urban decay and the gore effects are disgustingly real."Combat Shock" deals with the mental anguish one veteran goes through once back home.It's not as disturbing as "Cannibal Holocaust" or "Man Behind the Sun",but it's close.Check it out.10 out of 10.
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Gritty, disturbing urban nightmare
squeezebox24 January 2003
Gritty, disturbing nightmare movie about a pathetic Vietnam veteran living in poverty in New York City, who's slowly disintegrating mind finally snaps after one too many days of unemployment, loan sharks, a nagging wife, flashbacks and, worst of all, his constantly crying baby, monstrously deformed as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange. Relentlessly downbeat, and filled with horrific imagery of violence and drug abuse, this may be too much for many viewers to take. Borrows a bit from ERASERHEAD and TAXI DRIVER, but does so fairly well, with good performances, a seedy atmosphere and some imaginative directorial touches despite it's ultra low budget. Released on DVD by Troma for the first time in its uncut form, this is a movie truly worthy of rediscovery.
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10/10
Misery!
Jan Kjellin20 September 2002
One of the strongest post-Vietnam movies I have ever seen. Like an unofficial sequel to Coppola's Apocalypse Now, the movie starts off with a nightmarish dream sequence that eventually passes over into a real nightmare. This is a slow-paced journey into poverty, misery and the psychological scars that mark the survivors of the horrors of war. With every frame, the situation grows worse for the people in the movie. And up until the "grand finale", you find yourself wondering when hell will break loose.

It must be pointed out that this is a low budget production. But with every dollar missing, the crew have managed to add feeling. This is a strong movie, and you'll either love it or hate it.

I love it.
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7/10
Combat Shock
Scarecrow-889 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"I can never tell where one torture ends and the other begins."

Extremely depressing parable of human misery, poverty, and drug addiction on the rotted, deteriorating streets of Staten Island where we follow a day in the life of a deeply troubled Vietnam vet who may or may not have slaughtered an entire village during that conflict and how such horrifying memories torment him. The urban squalor and his own life's difficulties(..finding a job, being evicted, dealing with a pushy, constantly bitching wife, a hungry handicapped infant, owing money to drug- pushers) resemble the nightmarish terrors of his past in the war. His descent into madness will more than likely leave you truly unsettled and repulsed, it's not a pretty picture at all. Ricky Giovinazzo, as the vet who roams throughout the decaying filthy streets, is unforgettable in the lead. Director Buddy Giovinazzo paints a very distressing, uncompromising portrait of an urban hell where the undesirables wander in an aimless, squalid existence thanks to a country that has abandoned them. The final ten or so minutes, once Ricky G uses a stolen gun that had fallen from a woman's purse he had lifted(..she had stolen it from a dead junkie), will probably, unless you have an incredible tolerance for disturbing behavior, stun even the most hardened viewer into silence. The added Vietnam war footage(..proposed by Team Troma producers Kaufman and Herz)actually enhances the film, I think.

A definite word of warning, the film's final minutes contain brutal acts of truly destructive violence of an unpleasant nature. Besides the final scene, there's a very troubling sequence where a sick junkie, unable to find specific drug paraphernalia, opens a sore on his arm with an extended coat hanger so he can pour heroine into his system for a fix. The film features Ricky G meeting such people as a young girl being used by a pimp as a hooker(..this scumbag is the type who orders them around, often resorting to slapping among other acts of violence to keep his girls in line), and a drug-pusher with two thugs who abuse junkies for kicks(..what happens to these foul miscreants will probably be met with applause).The grit, grime, graffiti and garbage of the unflattering Staten Island locations chosen for the film leave a lasting impression of hopelessness and dispair. The diseased baby(..a victim of Ricky G's effects from Agent Orange)is truly a haunting creation(..it's whining especially grating) and the squibs used when the gun violence erupts(..not to mention the bloody carnage of torn apart corpses in the Vietnam scenes)are quite impressive considering the very miniscule budget.
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8/10
This is indeed a shocker.
Hey_Sweden8 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The effectiveness of "Combat Shock" just goes to show that the movies which the notorious Troma company picks up for distribution are typically better than their own productions. The movie is not what this viewer would consider "enjoyable", but that's entirely the point. This is gut wrenching, raw, uncompromising, brutal stuff that unfortunately feels all too real. Clearly filmed on a shoestring, this only enhances the impact of the material, as we are witness to a variety of extremely down and out Staten Island citizens, with one person in particular serving as the focus. He's Frankie (Rick Giovinazzo, brother of the writer / director Buddy Giovinazzo, and also composer of the music), a man with a mind that's steadily deteriorating. He can't forget his haunting Vietnam War experience, and now he lives in squalor with a nagging wife (Veronica Stork), and a deformed child who has taken ill. He can't find work, is about to be evicted from his apartment, and is in debt to a gangster (Mitch Maglio), to boot. The story is largely confined to a single day as Frankie wanders the streets, sometimes with a purpose (such as going to the employment agency, or placing a desperate call to his father), sometimes not. Along the way he meets assorted other people living miserable lives. When he finally gives in to temptation and commits a crime (believing that being in jail isn't the worst situation in which he could find himself), he's presented with what will truly turn out to be his means of release. If you know going in that this movie is going to be a walk on the dark side of life, you may figure out where this is all going, but that still doesn't make the ultimate resolution any less tragic. The characters, by and large, aren't all that sympathetic, but remain compelling, flaws and all. The acting is often as rough as one could expect from something of this budget, but Rick G. gives a really heartfelt effort, and he and Buddy G. pull no punches when it comes to the cold hard reality of any moment. The pacing is very deliberate, as one will notice, all the way from start to finish; Buddy G. lets each scene play out for as long as possible, and the camera never flinches from the horrors that occur. This is far and away one of the grimmest productions with which Troma ever associated, a long way from the camp and schlock of their in-house projects. By the time this is all over, it would be very hard not to feel *something* as the end credits start rolling. This is the kind of thing one would cautiously recommend unless the prospective viewer can appreciate bleakness in their movies. Eight out of 10.
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9/10
Excellent downbeat post-Nam' horror film
dworldeater15 October 2012
Combat Shock has been described as a cross between Eraserhead and Taxi Driver. I would find that statement to be accurate . However, Taxi Driver is a shiny happy movie compared to this . This movie shows the crime of poverty , the horrors of war and how some veterans fall under real hard times when they return home. Very low budget , limited resources really set the tone for this filthy , bleak, urban hell . The most well made of anything under the Troma banner , and artistic even. I do enjoy a lot of Troma 's campy titles , but this is stone cold serious , depressing , and well done. The pace is slow, but hits hard and heavy like a Black Sabbath riff. Very good.
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8/10
"Sometimes you're better off in jail".
lost-in-limbo11 October 2011
If you want to see a very effective, considerably penniless drama filled with horror and despair you can't go past the Troma released "Combat Shock". Looking at the cover artwork, it doesn't do it any justice because it's far more than just an exploitative actioner but a thoughtfully raw and unsettling psychological character piece on the struggle to cope with the hardship of unflinching reality that faced Frankie a Vietnam Vet returning back to a decayed society that just doesn't care. It's a dog eat dog world. Other than the nightmares and flashbacks that plague his mind, he finds himself still battling a war and trying to survive along with his wife and baby son (which is a disturbing sight); only the jungle this time is in his own backyard. An urban jungle --- where pimps and thugs rule the nest. Nothing seems to go right, even when he tries it goes from bad to worse with no real luck and the powerfully downbeat finale is hard to wipe from your mind. It's as depressing as you can get, because the story actually gets your into this character's mindset making you feel every bit of pain and torture. There is some action and violence, but like I mentioned earlier it's more than just that. Ugly to look at with its seedy shot on locations, but the script emotionally unfolds slowly and remains captivating in its bleak intensity. Sometimes it might lull about with the spaced-out central character's aimless wandering, but it grimy edginess just sticks with you. Although the accompanying electronic score does amplify some oddly sounding cues. Performances are credible and Ricky Giovinazzo moodily solitude turn is picture-perfect as Frankie. Director/writer/producer Buddy Giovinazzo straight-up compact handling is tough and unsparing, making the production a true labour of love. Primitive, but challenging entertainment.

"I can't go home empty handed tonight"
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10/10
A world full of dirt, ugliness and pain!!
Mirco-37 August 2000
I love this movie!!! Not even though it is cheap and rough-made but BECAUSE of it. In a Big-Budget-Box-Office-Seller this story would not work.

Combat Shock's style is very aggressive and direct. The way of telling the story is very slow. There's no beautiful cinematography. The story is simple. The actors are not very pretty.

Nevertheless it worked. It is very disturbing!! A good-mood-killer!!! But why are we watching movies??? Not to see!! But to FEEL!!! I want to cry, to laugh, to get shocked or to disgust. I want to feel that, what the actors seem to feel. Even if they feel bad. Most movies with a "just-want-to-entertain"-intention are a waste of time. Last but not least they will bore you.

This movie doesn't!! If you're able to watch a movie without counting goofs or discussing the cheap F/X it will be a journey into the land of hopelessness.

In the latest movie directed by Buddy Giovinazzo ("No way home")he had more money, a better crew, an excellent cast and better technical conditions. And it became a good movie. But the strength and roughness of Combat Shock has gone away.

Sometimes it is better when a director has no money.
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10/10
Don't watch this one if you're depressed
Frank-2034 February 2000
The only thing I hate about this film is the idiotic cover which pretends to be a Rambo rip-off. The film itself shows the No Future life of a Vietnam-Vet in where he really gets pushed to the No Return stage so he has to rescue his family from their hopeless situation. If you watch this film based on the cover or the Troma-logo,don't bother, chances are that you feel rather drained after viewing.
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When I saw this, I said it's the greatest film of all time! Well, not THE greatest, but it's sure one of 'em!
one4now412 December 2003
Where do I begin in a review of a film as powerful as "Combat Shock"? Here is the film that shoots holes in every patriotic belief. It is an art film with subtle moments throughout that don't even feel subtle, for even its calmest, most non-violent scenes get under the skin of the viewer. In it, Ricky Giovinazzo (writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo's brother) gives an excellent performance as a haunted 'Nam vet named Frankie. With his pregnant wife and severely disabled one-year-old son (totally mutated because of his father's exposure to Agent Orange), he struggles to survive in a ghetto filled with poverty and rot. Desperate to find a way out of his hopeless situation for his family and himself, he wanders the streets, having hellish flashbacks, being beaten by drug dealers, and searching for a job that doesn't require killing, robbing, or technical experience. Frankie's only friend is a quivering, bitter junkie who steals just to nurse his drug habit, and Frankie also encounters unfortunate people such as two young children being pimped on the street. As he wonders how this could happen in the country he had gone off to fight for, his sanity continuously crumbles before cold, graffiti-sprayed, industrial backgrounds. Adding more to the cold, relentless intensity is a droning mass of white noise that fills the soundtrack from the machines when the score isn't going. Soon Frankie sees that the very nation he has called home is a battleground all its own. There is not an uplifting moment in the entire film, not so much as even an iota of dark humor. "Combat Shock" offers strong insight into just how human even the most inhumane of killers are. Not once do the filmmakers glorify the violence seen in the movie, instead using the horrific and gory elements in the ugliest, most depressing way possible. Believe you me, this is no complaint, because this is what makes "Combat Shock" a powerful and unforgettable experience. It is raw, gritty, and very deep, as it is made for those who prefer films that force them to think. The score (by Ricky Giovinazzo as well) is one of the best I have ever heard, and fits the film like an uncomfortably tight glove, conveying a horror-movie feel while combining it with more melancholy and dramatic sounds (as well as some dirty, seedy, bored, punked-out-sounding death disco sensibilities) to help give this movie a feel of a study of reality as a horror movie. The gore FX and the mutant baby are very well-done, but this is not a movie for people who just want to see blood and guts. As I said, where most splatter films dehumanize their characters, "Combat Shock" makes you feel for the characters. It's so much more disturbing and moving that way, and I must say that this is more horrific than any of the full-on horror films that I've seen. The director was obviously a fan of "Taxi Driver" and "Eraserhead", but this film is not derivative and not only stands up well on its own, but stands up so well that it is much better than both of those films, gaining intensity and momentum until the shocking and heart-wrenching climax. I've watched this movie several times and still come away laughing at the end every time, not because it's funny (which it's not), but because it's a feeling of relief and release I get when the catharsis finally occurs in the brutal, climactic scenes. Don't think this is some cheezy, goofy movie just because it took Troma to release it. After all, nobody else would. It's been a long while since I have seen a movie that I would be ready and willing to crown as my favorite above all others, but this amazing masterpiece of independent cinema definitely deserves the title. (It's not its fault that it shares the title with many others, but that's beside the point!) And, by all means, see the unrated version!!!
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9/10
Shattering
fertilecelluloid30 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Originally titled "American Nightmare" and released by Troma in the States, this is a grim, depressing, heartfelt portrait of one Vietnam vet's rage. Unemployed, penniless, and father of a deformed infant (possibly the result of Agent Orange spraying), leading man Frankie (Rick Giovinazzo) walks the streets of New Jersey like a shambling corpse and encounters various miscreants as troubled as himself. Harassed by his fat, complaining wife (a great performance from Veronica Stork), chased by thugs he owes money to, and threatened with eviction from an apartment that looks like it should have been condemned a decade ago, Frankie finally snaps and begins a campaign to erase his problems forever.

Giovinazzo's triumph is his believable creation of a bleak, hopeless, fascinating world, a world that eats its weak, neglects its old, and turns its back on its history. New Jersey, as seen through the lens of cinematographer Stella Varveris, is a metaphor for the rot in America's soul, a wasteland of trodden-on ambitions, poison dreams found in needles, and lingering death and disease.

The film employs Vietnam war footage, brutal recreations of Frankie's tour of duty and a pulsing, disturbing, electronic score by lead actor Rick Giovinazzo. The film's low budget is totally appropriate for the grim subject matter and the stark interior lighting never allows the poverty to be romanticized.

The performances are all excellent and one sequence, where Frankie calls his broke father for a favor, is shattering on so many levels.

"Combat Shock" is a very powerful achievement.
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6/10
Sloppily made, but preserves a raw honesty
tomgillespie200212 June 2014
Certainly lacking in wise-cracking rubber monsters and outlandishly- dressed brain-dead punks, Combat Shock - a serious, if extremely low- budget drama/psychological horror by writer/director/producer Buddy Giovinazzo - proves that Troma Entertainment occasionally took their movies seriously. The shell-shocked Vietnam veteran story had been done many times before, and certainly a lot better, but never quite as unsettling. Far from a masterpiece, and riddled with terrible production values, Combat Shock nevertheless is a glowing statement as to just what scraping-the-piggy-bank film-making can sometimes offer.

After an event during the Vietnam War that left a village dismembered and massacred, Frankie Dunlan (Rick Giovinazzo - brother to Buddy), struggles to adapt to civilian life. Living in poverty, unable to find work, and saddled with a whining wife (Veronica Stork) and a deformed baby, he is about the have the worst day of his life. Owing money to a group of drug-dealing punks, led by Paco (Mitch Maglio), Frankie wanders the battered streets of his native New York, coming into contact with various low-lives and looking for any way to make a buck. Seemingly without hope, and terrified to go back to his starving family empty- handed, he resorts to an act of violence.

You could imagine running a finger along the negative of Combat Shock and immediately needing to wash your hands afterwards. The movie seems awash with grime, and the streets Frankie wanders down have an almost apocalyptic quality. This is utterly depressing stuff, nearly entirely devoid of laughs, where the types of people Frankie befriends are gun- wielding junkies or child prostitutes. It's sometimes laughably pessimistic, a journey into utter depravity, and combined with some extremely amateurish production values and an occasionally plodding narrative, can be a bit of a slog to get through at times.

Yet for all it's sloppy editing and wide-eyed, over-the-top thesping, it is at times extremely effective. The baby, horribly disfigured due to Frankie's exposure to Agent Orange, looks cheap, but the way it moves and sounds, combined with the dump that surrounds it, is just as disturbing as Eraserhead (1977). There is also a horrible moment when a junkie, unable to find a needle for his fix, opens his damaged arm with a coat hanger and pours heroin into his black, bleeding vein. Some will find it's relentless depravity too much to take, but there's a gritty honesty here, going deep into the dark heart of a post-Vietnam America, where traumatised Vets were hung out to dry by a country that had forgotten them.

www.the-wrath-of-blog.blogspot.com
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5/10
Stark urban nightmare!
sanzar29 March 2001
"Combat Shock' differs from most Troma releases it that it is not "intentionally" cheap and idiotic (a la "A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell" to name but one, of many). Filmed amidst the squalor of inner city slums, and admittedly mounted with an ultra-low budget, this initial film of Director Buddy Giovinazzo is a stark portrait of urban poverty and hopelessness that is both repellent and somehow, captivating, despite the amateurish thesping & technical execution.

Definitely not a film for everyone, this picture paints a bleak portrait of a veteran GI and former POW, Frankie Dunlan (played by Rick Giovinazzo, brother of the Director), whose memories of his experiences in Viet-Nam have left him functionally deficient upon his return to civilian life. Incapable of holding a job, but saddled with the responsibilities of supporting a wife and deformed child ( a side effect of his Agent-Orange exposure), Frankie awakens each day to a dead-end future, with no perceivable way out. He eventually comes to grips with his hopeless situation in a stark and shocking climax.

This film will never win any acting awards, but the overall milieu is realistically captured and the final effect is powerful, albeit depressing in the extreme.

Worth viewing (particularly via the Troma DVD, released in '98), despite the production drawbacks. And kudos to Troma for being the (only) apparent distribution firm willing to release this film. Troma also recently rescued Dario Argento's "The Stendahl Syndrome" from distribution limbo, so despite Lloyd Kaufman's (Troma topliner and tacit "official" spokesman)outright pandering to the video market's lowest (and I mean lowest) common denominator, he proves that, at least once in a while, he has some genuine "Taste".
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8/10
Depressing, Grimy Little Film
EVOL66612 October 2005
COMBAT SHOCK is a gritty film about the disillusion and ultimate break down of Frankie, a Vietnam vet, living in New York with his wife and "child". Frankie is basically a complete loser with no money, job, or life in general, and the film pretty much just follows him around from one depressing experience to another, until the shocking finale. COMBAT SHOCK is far too bleak for the standard audience, and as a previous reviewer noted, most people either really like, or really loathe this film. Personally, I felt it was a realistic and somber portrayal of an individual who has absolutely nothing positive going on in his life, and no real hope of a better future. If you are clinically depressed or on any type of depression medication, you should probably leave this one alone. Those who prefer more thought-provoking cinema may want to give this one a shot...8/10
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9/10
a different kind of horror film
framptonhollis20 August 2017
Released by Troma of all studios, "Combat Shock" is a deeply troubling dramatic thriller about a traumatized veteran's daily struggles. It provides a bleak and pessimistic outlook on life in which poverty runs rampant and positive resolutions cannot be found anywhere. The streets of New York slums are portrayed with a complete lack of any hope whatsoever, the characters never truly conquer their deep inner (and outer) pains, and there is NO HAPPY ENDING.

Clearly, a movie so depressing and upsetting will not appeal to everybody, and it will likely divide viewers furthermore because of its low budget, sometimes iffy acting, graphic violence, and bitter philosophy. However, I for one absolutely loved this film. It is like an exploitation film that refuses to be exploitative, a REAL horror story, one that does not focus on the typical traits of the horror genre, but one that manages to fit under the genre's vast umbrella simply because of the sheer cruelty of it. "Combat Shock" is many things, it is a war drama, a psychological thriller, a work of astounding realism, a dark nihilistic tragedy, and a gory, shocking, boundary pushing horror film. It grapples the viewer by the neck with unstoppable rage, sucking them into a world of hopelessness and depravity, forcing them to witness the cruelest, darkest, and saddest aspects of humanity, always obscuring that glimmer of hope and lightheartedness your heart knows is there somewhere but just simply cannot find.

After watching this it's safe to say that you may want to try to lighten up your mood because, although this movie is a masterpiece of tensity and shocks, this is a goddamn BUMMER!
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7/10
A depressing nomadic attempt to escape despair
Afracious22 February 2000
Right from the start it is apparent that the film is very cheaply made. The initial Vietnam scenes were filmed in New Jersey, but it doesn't look like Vietnam at all and looks very amateur, but it is strangled by it's minute budget. Having said that it is a worthy attempt. The film features the director's brother Ricky Giovinazzo as Frankie, a Vietnam veteran returning home to find a very bleak and depressing New Jersey, where he wanders around aimlessly almost throughout the entire film. He lives in a squalid flat with his wife and deformed baby (which looks like a cross between E.T and the baby from Eraserhead, though not nearly as believable). That is all there really is to describe, just a confused and desperate guy who is on the edge and eventually has to explode, which he does in the film's shocking ending.
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Do NOT watch this movie alone!
Nozze-Foto19 March 2002
You think you have bad days? Try watching this movie about a day in the life of Ricky (Ricky Giovinazzo, billed as "Ricky G"). He is a shell shocked Vietnam vet who may have massacred his own men, he is in debt to the local loan shark, he cannot find a job, his wife (Veronica Stock) is nagging him constantly, he is about to be evicted from his crummy Staten Island apartment and his rich dad is senile, has lost his fortune, lives in a nursing home and thinks his son is dead. Okay, now how was YOUR day? This movie was marketed by the folks at Troma Films as a RAMBO clone. I think a lot of people who rented it thinking they would see lots of fight scenes and explosions had to pick their jaws up off the floor long before it ended. Try not to flinch when you see a junkie tear open his vein with a coat hanger (and look what's on the end of that hanger!) and cram heroin into his bleeding wound. I dare you not to look away when you see Ricky's infant son, an Agent Orange mutated . . .thing. In fact, this whole picture will leave you in a cold sweat and sleeping with the lights on . ..or TRYING to sleep anyway. Filmed on a budget of, well, nothing by Buddy Giovinazzo this film was thrown out of 50, yes FIFTY, film festivals because it was just too darn hard hitting and realistic for many peoples tastes. The cut version, COMBAT SHOCK is on video but several mail order sources have the uncut version, which is the cinematic equivalent of a sucker punch. This time the cliched old line "See it if you dare" is a legitimate warning. Oh, and a word of advice: under no circumstances watch this film and DEADBEAT AT DAWN on the same night. Consider yourself warned.
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10/10
The worst american nightmare has just began...
Maestro-1121 September 1998
Propably the best movie of Troma inc. Some guy gets nightmares and bad traumas from Vietnam. This movie tell us about that guy, as a matter of fact one (and last) day of his life. Contains lots of gore and nightmare-sessions, what are truly incredible. Truly classic!
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9/10
A harsh and hard-hitting little grindhouse nugget
Woodyanders28 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Unhinged traumatized Vietnam veteran Frankie Dunlan (strongly played with jolting conviction and intensity by Ricky Giovinazzo, who also composed the wonky, yet still fitting and effective synth score) struggles to keep his steadily eroding sanity, lives in miserable squalor with his whiny, fed-up, and overbearing pregnant wife Cathy (a perfectly shrill portrayal by Veronica Stork) and his constantly mewling malformed baby (the result of Frankie's exposure to Agent Orange during his tour of duty), tries to find a job, and runs across a gang of local thugs while wandering around the dismal Staten Island neighborhood he resides in. Writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo delivers a pungent and unflinching evocation of severe urban decay that's rife with an overwhelming sense of pain, angst, despair, and utter hopelessness. Indeed, this picture's unsparingly bleak and depressing tone along with its fierce undiluted nihilism and pessimism give it a raw unsettling potency that's like a vicious kick right to the gut. The grimy locations, colorful array of lowlife characters, and the rough unpolished cinematography by Stella Varveris all further enhance the overall grungy verisimilitude. Packed with startling moments (a desperate and pathetic junkie uses a coat hanger to mainline heroin!), thick with a brooding gloomy mood and a harrowing grasp of the foul bitter reality of down-trodden American existence, and capped off by a shattering downbeat conclusion, this dark and ugly, yet still riveting powerhouse deserves its sterling cult reputation.
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8/10
All alone in the jungle...
Foreverisacastironmess12331 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
When I first watched this, I assumed because it had the Troma label stuck on it that it would be the usual lovably gross crazy crap that they put out, but boy was I wrong there. It was thankfully only distributed by them, and there was nothing farcical or lighthearted about it, but it was one of the grimmest, most hard-edged pictures that I'd ever seen. It pulled no punches and was so brutal and disheartening, that poor guy needed a break so bad, just the tiniest bit of luck to help him out, but he truly had nowhere left to go but down as he aimlessly wandered a decrepit cityscape where the citizens no longer cares about each other or even for themselves in uncertainty and dead-end boredom in the kind of frightfully hungry, empty and completely hopeless life that all sane people dread to be trapped in... And I loved it, I was goddamn blown away. I knew it would be my kind of movie and something special as soon as I saw the squalid presentation and heard the music and the blunt interactions as Frank gets up to a day that's truly from hell. There weren't any pretensions about it, it had a real energetic downbeat energy and raw honesty about itself. It was so visually gripping to me that I plain couldn't take my eyes off it, all the urban decay of the miserable ghetto in which he simply exists, the cracked overgrown walkways, the old disused railway tracks leading the nowhere, the abounded darkened old buildings, how it looked and the atmosphere of the setting just oozed appeal to me, I found it oddly captivating, it was to me beautifully desolate. It's the same kind of tone that I've loved before in other movies like Basket Case, The Driller Killer, The New York Ripper, Maniac, Street Trash, and recently Taxi Driver. I also liked it because it had a slight touch of the weird and offbeat to it at points, not so weird that it was surrealistic or anything, it had a coherent plot and a level of depth to the main character, but it had its bizarre elements, the main one being the grotesque mutant baby that looks like an alien ghost and constantly moans in an eerie electronic-sounding cry. I didn't like the baby though, for me it took away from the stark reality too much. They should've done it so that, that was how he saw and heard the thing but nobody else did, it would've made the effect a lot creepier, not to mention what he eventually does to it far more disturbing. The soundtrack was amazing, composed by the star himself! Some find that the synth music themes clash with the story but for me it definitely added a certain something. I thought Rick Giovinazzo in his only ever acting role gave an excellent strong performance that really holds it all together and he gave a brilliant portrayal of a man at the end of his rope and hanging onto his sanity by a thread, before going through a total mental breakdown and only finding a solution to the nightmare through cold-blooded murder. Until the end I found him a sympathetic and understandable character. The saddest part of the film comes when Frank makes a desperate phone call to the estranged father who thought he was dead for years to ask him for a loan, only to learn that the once wealthy old man has nothing left and is dying. It's a heartbreaking exchange as his dad apologises for the falling out they had years earlier and says that he doesn't want to go back to the painful past anymore... Rick tries to be the honourable guy and help out his old junkie friend and talk sense to a heartless stereotypical pimp, but it's all to no avail and as the day drags on and he's battered and pushed more and more he just crumbles under the weight of all the unbearable stresses and crushing hopelessness in everything around him. And what really pushes him over the edge is when he's forced to shoot dead the gang of crooks that he owes money to. He then returns home beaten and bloody to his nagging but concerned wife and gazes into the flickering haze of the broken television like a zombie and perceives strange visions of his past in Vietnam and finally remembers what really happened to him there and the dark secret that he's blacked out of his head for so long, which causes his mind to completely shut down to the point where he can no longer tell the difference between the phantom 'enemies' of his jungle nightmares and his own family. And the excellent way that scene is filmed you realise what he's going to do just as he does. And what follows is ugly and unpleasant and it was a shocking and powerful ending to an already disturbing movie. A great movie too, not for everyone and not easy or nice viewing but I loved it. It was a diamond in the rough, and a f*cking classic!
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