Combat Shock - Buddy Giovinazzo (1986)
« We're all Frankies... We're all lying in hell... »
Do you know this song, 'Frankie Teardrop' by Suicide? Because Combat Shock's plot is based on this song.
The movie follows one day in the miserable life of Frankie, a Vietnam veteran deeply and dangerously traumatized by his experience in the jungle. Every day. Every night. Every single minute he is haunting by his past and can't help it but trying to remember what happened back there. Flashbacks give us clues throughout the movie. He got lost in the jungle while on a mission, and can't recollect how he got there, stalked by a group of vietnamese. He finally ended prisonner, tortured and locked up in a cage for months and months, slowly falling into insanity. He woke up at the hospital, where he spent two years recovering. He is now living in a slum near the railroad in Staten Island, New York, with his wife and kid whose deformed due to agent orange effects. Sick and tired of hearing the creepy sounds of his baby, Frankie decides to go out to look out for a job. « You're not looking for a job... You're waiting for the world to end » said his wife before he leaves. Unskilled, depressive and smelly, he really can't get a job. So he keeps wandering in these filthy streets, that look more like a municipal waste than real streets, crossing the way of gang members who beat him up for owing them money, of a junkie friend willing to mugg for a little money to pay his shit, a bum looking through the trash for a piece of meat full of maggots, whores, a pimp and other pathetic characters.
The director, credited as Buddy G, helped by his brother Rick who plays Frankie, and a bunch of friends, will work three years on this project. When you see the movie, you can say it was inspired by David Lynch's Eraserhead, Scorcese's Taxi Driver and Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter. The sick baby is a direct reference to Eraserhead, with the same screaming sounds, while the scene where Frankie is talking to a teen prostitute reminds us of Taxi Driver. The gritty, stark realistic urban atmosphere of the two latter are put to the extreme in Combat Shock. The movie is intense, oppressive, dark and sticky. You can feel how Frankie's life is a living hell. After having served in Vietnam, he wasn't prepared to face the war on the urban jungle that could drive every instable person to make insane things to escape from this spiral of miserability.
Surprisingly produced by Troma, Lloyd Kaufman once said it was the only 'real' movie he ever released. In spite of what many could think, Troma doesn't only put out dumb gore comedies, even if I like Class Of NukeEm High or Toxic Avenger. Anyway, Combat Shock is a depressive and nihilistic movie, and leaves a lasting impact on its viewer, due to its hard story and shocking ending. Add to that one the weirdest soundtrack ever repeatiting for half the movie and the cold playing of Rick Giovinazzo, you got one of the best independant post Vietnam war feature ever. (RG)