Thursday, October 15, 2009

Combat Shock/American Nightmares




This one will be brief because my good friend Phil over at Grim Horror already reviewed this flick a while back, and his review was my reason for seeking this film out.

This movie packs a punch. Buddy G's Combat Shock is one of the most relentlessly bleak, disturbing, and depressing films I've ever seen. Because of these qualities it succeeds. Even though it's one of the most uncomfortable movies to watch I can say that I "like" it, because it brings you to the place it intends to take you and doesn't let go. It is very hard to find cinema this intense and disturbing, yet this honest at the same time.
Combat Shock is a film detailing a Vietnam War veterans' life of poverty, dementia, and depression as he struggles to cope with continuing visions of his life in combat and as a POW. Frankie's entire life is an abysmal mess. No job, no money, no food, shitty delapitated apartment (of which he is being evicted), a nagging wife (can you blame her?), and a baby with deformities blamed on Frankie's agent orange exposure in Vietnam. He has seemingly no friends or family who can help him, and has criminals he is in debt to. Things are not looking good for Frankie.

As Phil and many others have said before me, Combat Shock shares themes and has a similar tone to films such as The Driller Killer, Eraserhead, Maniac, and Taxi Driver. A definite must-see if you're into this type of thing. Troma recently released a beautiful 2-Disc DVD, so grab it while it's available and prepare to have your mind mangled. The comparison to The Driller Killer is mostly in it's gritty, raw New York atmosphere, as well as having a similar look to the cinematography, at least as far as the film is concerned. I wouldn't be surprised if both were originally 16mm, but I don't know a lot about that sort of thing. Combat Shock was blown up to 35mm by Troma when they purchased the film, it was shot in 16mm and originally titled American Nightmares. The other films I brought up for comparison are mostly only tied thematically. David Lynch's Eraserhead baby is very obviously referenced here and the way the child is represented as part of the story definitely shows the influence that film had on Mr. G's Combat Shock. While they share obvious similarities, Combat Shock makes (Scorsese's masterpiece) Taxi Driver look like an episode of Sesame Street. No joke. I'm going to try to avoid ruining the film for you, but if you've seen any of the films I've made reference to, I'm sure you have an idea of what happens as Frankie's fragile psyche receives continuous bludgeoning as the film plays out.
If you're depressed, this movie can have two effects one you (maybe both?):
A) It can make you feel little better about your own life situation because hey, at least you're not in the same shitty situation Frankie is in. However, this soon wears off because this movie is so raw and realistic that obviously it draws from real life shit that many people have gone through, and that's also pretty damn depressing; knowing how many unhappy and seemingly helpless people there are out there.
or
B) It can spin your depression in an even further developing downward spiral of paranoia and hopelessness.
Either way, you still lose. Enjoy the movie, manics. Don't worry, I'll be back to something a little more fun next time around.
Well, so much for being brief.

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