Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Combat Shock (1984)

...aka: American Nightmare

Directed by:
Buddy Giovinazzo

First released to theaters as AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (in 1986), this is the story of a screwed-up Vietnam vet named Frankie (Ricky Giovinazzo, brother of the director) who is struggling to get by in New York City. His bickering, miserable wife (Veronica Stork) is constantly criticizing him because he can't get enough food to feed the family, which includes a horribly deformed little baby (one of several key elements swiped from ERASERHEAD). Frankie sets out to the streets to get rent money so they won't get evicted. The atmosphere is extremely grim, with drugs, crime and prostitution running rampant all over the seedier areas of the city where Frankie spends much of his days. He's hassled by cops while waiting in an unemployment line and is chased around and beat up because he is indebted to mobsters.
Hampered by some uneven (and unconvincing) amateur acting, this extremely depressing tale has some potent nightmarish imagery, gritty photography and enough powerful, disturbing and/ or thought-provoking moments to make it worth one's time. It was the first effort from the director/producer/editor, who'd also make the unfinished MANIAC 2: MR. ROBBIE (1989), before heading to Germany to direct TV shows. It's one of the most interesting films in Troma's huge catalogue and is available in both a cut R rated version (85 minutes) and a director's cut version (92 minutes).


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