director Buddy Giovinazzo
Though perhaps marketed as a type of exploitation flick, Combat Shock is an amazingly earnest portrait of the hard times in the life of a Vietnam veteran in suburban Staten Island. It’s not often you see something of this low a budget trying to portray a gritty realism over the more exploitative aspects of genre film. Buddy Giovinazzo managed to craft something truly unique.
The film stars Ricky Giovinazzo, the director’s brother, as the poor, beleaguered vet, stuck in poverty with a nagging wife and a mutant child (a sort of Mac and Me (1988) meets Eraserhead (1977) baby), few options on the job front, and alienated from his family. Ricky Giovinazzo gives a good performance, grounding the character, steeped in trauma, PTSD, and shell-shock.
For as low budget as the film looks and feels, Buddy Giovinazzo really makes the most of his brother’s performance and the natural settings of the Port Richmond section of Staten Island of the time of the film’s shooting. It’s a cold, derelict Northeastern town, on the downside of the economy, far from a rebirth.
As the film moves into its almost inevitable and yet still very powerful conclusion, Combat Shock asserts itself as something far better than one would expect from independently produced and financed films, especially one so focused on a naturalistic drama of “the war at home”.