Troma Review – Combat Shock (1986)

Combat Shock, 1986.

Written and Directed by Buddy Giovinazzo.
Starring Ricky Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork, Mitch Maglio and Asaph Livni.


A tormented Vietnam veteran struggles to survive among the seedy underbelly of Staten Island, New York.

Released the same year as The Toxic Avenger, Troma distributed a film that many claim to be one of the best movies to come out of the House That Toxie Built. There has always been this argument that Troma distributed better films than they made, and supporters will often throw Combat Shock as an example. But, nearly 30 years on, the film has not held up.

Telling the story of a troubled Vietnam War veteran struggling to adjust back into normal life in a city destroyed by crime, a complaining wife and a deformed child, Combat Shock feels like it’s trying to make political statements but handles them poorly. The plot is far too weak and the filmmakers are too inexperienced to attempt to take them on. Many have said that the plot is far too similar to First Blood and some respects it is, but that really isn’t the films problem.

The main problem with the film is it’s pacing. It takes place over the course of one day in Frankie’s (Ricky Giovinazzo) life as we seem him wander round his ugly hometown looking for work. On the way he runs into criminals who he owes money to, guys desperate for drugs and little hope. While this is the full intention of the movie (a town where not a lot happens, but everything does), it makes for an incredibly boring watch. The promotional material for the movie reveals that he eventually snaps but we have to wait an hour and 10 minutes of a 90 minute movie to reach that point. Exposition scenes are dragged out longer than needed and we get extended shots of him walking round town just to fill in up the run time. And then when we finally arrive at the payoff, it leaves a lot to be desired.

However many people have praised this movie for its ‘gritty’ and ‘realistic’ portrayal of what city life is like, which I really don’t agree with. The film is incredibly gritty and at times can be tough to watch, but that doesn’t excuse the terrible and boring storytelling Combat Shock has. Couple that with terrible acting, dreadful dialogue and poor editing and you’re left with a pretty rubbish movie. The inclusion of a deformed mutant baby (produced because he was poisoned while out in ‘Nam) feels so misplaced within the context of the story it’s trying to tell, which ultimately leads the film to feeling unbalanced.

Unlike The Toxic Avenger which I reviewed yesterday, Combat Shock can’t fall back on the ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ motif because it’s not trying to be a bad movie – it’s trying to be a good movie and it fails on a massive scale. I really wish Combat Shock was better, but sadly time has not been kind to the movie and I don’t think it was that good to begin with. It has its cult following and fans like it for whatever reasons they have, but newcomers will find very little on offer here. A very lame, pointless and pretty boring movie.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★

Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.

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