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Frankie is a war vet whose life sucks. He has no money, a nagging wife, junkie friends, and a deformed baby. This is the story of one day in his pathetic post-war life.Written by
Josh Pasnak <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
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