Combat Shock (Director’s Cut)

(American Nightmares)
  • USA 1986
  • 98 min
  • 16mm
  • English
Director’s Cut: Rare screening of Buddy G’s original 16mm answer print!
Hosted by writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo

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"Breathtaking" — NEW YORK TIMES

“Angry, grueling, brutal... An uncompromisingly pitch-black work" — CINEFANTASTIQUE

"One of the most harrowing and painfully honest films I've seen" - Chas Balun, DEEP RED MAGAZINE


Director: Buddy Giovinazzo
Screenplay: Buddy Giovinazzo
Cast: Ricky Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork, Mitch Maglio, Asaph Livni
Producers: Buddy Giovinazzo, Jerry Giovinazzo, Lori Labar
Distributor: Troma Entertainment, Inc.


Everything you may have heard is true: this is one of the most upsetting films you will ever see. The Vietnam War ended years ago but for Frankie (played by the filmmaker’s own brother Ricky) and countless others like him, the past is never gone. Only the battlefields have changed. After enduring unspeakable tortures as a POW, he’s suffered through a long period in a government-run hospital, drugged on painkillers. That was before. Now Frankie is home and has started a family. His recently born son is horribly deformed and in constant pain. Frankie suspects this to be a by-product of Agent Orange exposure during the war, but nobody will confirm it. Shunned by a cutback welfare system and unable to get a job in his visibly broken state, Frankie wanders the streets of the city looking for anything that can get his family through the day. His wife Cathy (Veronica Stork) stays home with their infant, both surviving only on baby food and milk. Around them, violence and drug addiction is everywhere. It’s only a matter of time until purgatory explodes into a bloodbath.

Essentially the documentation of a neglected war veteran’s decimation through poverty and abandonment, COMBAT SHOCK is a heart-stopping vision of hell on earth, almost unendurably disturbing in its impact. Giovinazzo fuses the best elements from New York’s history of indie film forces—the immediacy and honesty of Cassavetes, the confrontation and shock of the underground transgression movement, elements of Abel Ferrara—into a deeply personal hand grenade. Shot for virtually nothing with a non-professional cast and crew, it transcends its budgetary limitations and goes places few films have ever dared venture. COMBAT SHOCK is ultimately a film about the horrors of poverty and the terror of losing control over every circumstance in one’s life. It’s set in a heightened world of abuse that turns victims into predators and strong men into weeping, trembling shells. Its violence will make you want to throw up and die. That said, it’s one of the most unshakable experiences you will ever have in a cinema. A no-budget masterpiece and one of the most significant independent American films of the ‘80s, COMBAT SHOCK has, unbelievably, never been shown in Montreal. That’s about to change, and for this special occasion, we’ll be screening Giovinazzo’s own print of his rarely seen director’s cut.

—Mitch Davis

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