Saturday, November 13, 2010

COMBAT SHOCK (1986) - Buddy Giovinazzo


This super cheap backyard mash-up of Platoon, Taxi Driver and Eraserhead has first-year film school written all over it. The Julliard by way of The Jersey Shore line readings delivered by friends and relatives. The soundtrack courtesy of a Casio keyboard. The grimy 16mm print that looks like it was developed in dirty bathwater. But, if you can look past its amateur aberrations, Combat Shock delivers as a respectably pure piece of bleak, bleak, BLEAK post-war pulp.

A shell-shocked Vietnam vet is back home on the mean and rather desolate streets Port Richmond with no job, a mentally-abusive wife nagging him to get one, and disturbingly deformed baby (thanks, Agent Orange!). It constantly cries and gets fed only wet bread crumbs in return. Our disturbed anti-hero mostly spends his days waiting in unemployment lines, loping around graffiti-ridden MTA tracks or side-stepping junkie war buddies and loan sharks. This is when he's not having combat flashbacks in which the marshlands of Staten Island sub for the jungles of Vietnam. Before you can say "You talkin' to me," he comes upon a loaded gun and a number of prime scuzzball candidates to use it on.

I won't ruin the ending. Though I'm guessing unless you're a hardcore grindhouse fan, a Troma Films devotee or a connoisseur of sub-prime Staten Island real estate, you will probably be wise to let Combat Shock pass you by. It's bleak and dirty and homemade and Staten Island all the way, like an early Wu-Tang record that samples Vietnam vet pics instead of kung-fu flicks. I wonder if the RZA keeps a wallet-size of the Agent Orange Baby in his pocket?

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