Monday, March 12, 2012

The Biggest Shock is That This is From Troma: "Combat Shock" (1984)

Frankie (Rick Giovinazzo) has not had a good time of it since coming back from Vietnam.

He lives in Staten Island in a disgusting apartment. His wife (Vernoica Stork) is pregnant, and their one year old son looks like (and is fake like) the baby in "It Lives." He is unemployed, owes the local tough Paco (Mitch Maglio) money, and his best friend is a junkie named Mike (Michael Tierno) who is trying to rob people in order to score a hit. Frankie is also having flashbacks to Vietnam, to finding an entire village slaughtered, and he was blamed for it. The viewer watches Frankie meander through his bleak existence before a bloody finale that is not for the squeamish.

Despite Troma's name on the credits, "Combat Shock" does not become "Combat Schlock." The film makers seem earnest in depicting the hopelessness of this character. The film was released in the mid-1980's, when a glut of Vietnam war films hit the screens, and this may be the most depressing. The cast of unknowns is fine, the direction is straight-forward and often imaginative, but the script meanders as much as Frankie does. I admit I was bored often, and if this was the intent of the film makers, then it worked.

Except for the fake deformed baby, the gore effects are disgustingly real. Also real is the cesspool locations in Staten Island. I have never seen urban decay shown so vividly onscreen, as Frankie's world consists of abandoned store fronts, graffiti, overgrown weeds, and garbage lined streets.

From the video cover, you might think "Combat Shock" was another typical Vietnam war film. This film deals with the mental anguish one veteran goes through once back home. If it hadn't been for some ill advised moves on the film makers part, this could have been an equal to "Platoon."

Instead, "Combat Shock" does shock, and not do much else. (* * *) out of five stars.