Tuesday, February 4, 2014


COMBAT SHOCK (1986) (R) Dir. Buddy Giovinazzo
85 mins.

Thee Satanophile here, and I just discovered Troma's lesser-known 1986 cult classic, Combat Shock. Director Buddy Giovinazzo's story of a Vietnam War veteran spiraling into penury, hopelessness and madness was inspired by Eraserhead and Taxi Driver, and I wouldn't be surprised if the director had been familiar with Sean Costello's and William Lustig's earlier works as well. It's seedy, grimy, and ultra-low budget -- exactly how I like 'em. The film is a slow and even tedious burn, but it is forgivable for its wonderful score, rotted, urban atmosphere, abject nihilism, great gore effects and its full throttle ending.

The film follows Ricky, a vet living in Staten Island. He's penniless, jobless, and suffering from vivid flashbacks of his time in Vietnam and as a POW. He is estranged from his father and lives in an empty apartment with his starving pregnant wife and mutant baby, who has born as such due to the Ricky's exposure to Agent Orange during the war. He spends his days going to the unemployment office and trying to avoid a violent mobster, Paco, and his gang of thugs, to whom Ricky owes money. We see him argue with his wife, receive an imminent eviction notice, his friend overdose, and Paco's thugs terrorizing him. Needless to say, Ricky spirals into a primal desperation.

This might be one of the last grimy 42nd street movies. By 1986 most horror films were headed towards the humorous and cartoonish, rather than the brutal style this movie encompasses. I highly recommend this to fans of grindhouse and low-budget guerilla filmmaking. Despite its flaws, Combat Shock has immense gritty charm. Its violence is well executed, its message is simple and  clear, and the discomfort it inspires in the viewer, especially during the harrowing climax, make this a must for purveyors of the macabre.


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