Combat Shock (1984)

MOVIE REVIEW: Combat Shock (1984) [SPOILERS]

Combat Shock

In the classic Troma film, Combat Shock, written and directed by Buddy Giovinazzo, we are introduced to Frankie, an incredibly disturbed Vietnam War veteran who is trying to survive in an America that wants nothing to do with him. Frankie, played by Buddy’s brother Rick Giovinazzo, was captured in Vietnam and lived as a POW for two years before being rescued. Once rescued, Frankie is kept at a hospital for three years because of the near catatonic state he is in from all of the trauma. We learn about Frankie’s past through flashbacks that are interspersed throughout the film and occur randomly from minuscule triggers, like water dripping from a faucet.Combat Shock

This review will contain some spoilers so if this is a film that you are wanting to watch, I would recommend postponing reading this review. In addition, this review is for the new limited edition release of Combat Shock from Severin Films, which is a new 4K rescan from the 35mm inter-negative with 2K inserts from Buddy’s personal 16mm print. Further, this release of Combat Shock is a director’s cut and has 8 minutes of never before shown footage. Watching this release, I can say that coming from 1984, the rescan does the film a great justice in clarifying the colors of the film and the film in general. Severin has done a great service to the cult film community and the world in remastering this classic film addressing such a prominent and significant topic as PTSD. 

As someone diagnosed with PTSD myself, I was cautious going into watching the film because I did not feel like being triggered, but instead of triggering me, I found myself sucked into watching one of the best portrayals of PTSD that I have ever seen. With no work coming his way, Frankie and his wife and baby (the baby having been mutated due to Agent Orange), are living in a near-destitute situation with no food, except a carton of sour milk, so part of the film is Frankie dealing with these difficulties, being confronted by a loan shark, and seeing a friend who is addicted to heroin and willing to do anything for a fix.

Anyone who is or has been an addict or known an addict will see a scary realism with Mike the junkie. One of Mike’s scenes, in which he has finally acquired a fix but does not have any way to prep and inject the heroin. In an act of desperation, he finds a piece of broken glass, carves open some veins and mainlines the heroin, not through injection but pouring the powder into his open veins. This is Mike’s last act of desperation and leads to his death by overdose.

Also titled as American Nightmares when it was first being made, Giovinazzo has shown the darker, seedier side of the American dream, one where surviving demands ruthlessness. Not just that though, the film shows how far one can fall into darkness when one is devoid of hope. With an ending that haunted me yesterday, we watch as Frankie shoots his wife once, her body hits the ground and the baby begins to cry. Not dead, Frankie screams at her, “Die goddammit! Die!” putting a few more slugs into her. He then turns the gun on his son and with the bleakness that comes with a film like this, we watch in horror as he puts a bullet through his baby son’s chest. Making it even worse, the baby does not die but continues gasping for air, so he puts it in the oven and turns it on. Last, he shoots himself and the movie ends.

Combat Shock is a dark, ultra-realistic tale that Giovinazzo has told in a beautifully tragic way, and I highly recommend this film to anyone with the stomach to take it.

Combat Shock


Posted by Spencer Evatt

I have a degree in Philosophy and Literature with an obsession for all forms of horror, especially the more extreme underground stuff. I also plan to have Vampirella as a bride and spend a large amount of free time battling zombies in Resident Evil

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