• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Combat Shock

TITLE: Combat Shock

YEAR: 1986

GENRE:  Horror and Drama

AKA: American Nightmares

One aspect that the independent horror film maker does not seem to understand is that scary movies do not need to rely on masked killers, monsters from an unknown destination, and witches and warlocks. There are a fair amount of topics that can be taken to create n acceptable scary film offering that is creative and has a message for the viewer at the same time. One of these films would be the mid-80’s Combat Shock, a film that combines an urban rot atmosphere with a protagonist with post-traumatic stress disorder to create a nightmarish, depressing tale that is just as frightening as any undead killer or slime-dripping creature from outer space.

Frankie Dunlan (played by Ricky Giovinazzo) is a dangerously disturbed Vietnam War veteran who lives in the worst neighborhood on Staten Island with his nagging wife Cathy (Veronica Stork) and his infant child, permanently deformed as a result of Frankie’s exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Frankie lives with his family in a squalid, tiny apartment surrounded by junkies, drug dealers, and prostitutes and severely lacking in jobs or hope. Frankie is especially bothered by the thugs who harass him and his family and annoyed with his court-appointed social worker who gives simplistic resolutions to his personal issues. After receiving a savage beating from the gang of thugs Frankie guns them down with a pistol and comes to the conclusion that he must “save” his family and himself from this inner city hell through the most extreme measure imaginable.

Fans that are looking for a comedy or some other light-hearted project should dodge Combat Shock like a vacation to inner city Detroit as this is a gloomy portrayal of modern society at its worst. The neighborhoods displayed are a perfect example of urban decay at its darkest complete with spray paint covered dilapidated buildings, noisy mind numbing trains, and filthy alleys, and the hopeless environment adds to the despair of the film. As an actor Giovinazzo is downright excellent as the deranged veteran who sees nothing around him but death and desperation and is especially good during a conversation with a pre-teen hooker. The ending of the film is especially depressing and leaves the viewer with a suffocating, bleak feeling so this is not the kind of film one shows to entertain guests. The gore effects are especially effective that include war flashbacks where pregnant women are executed, fingers are chopped off American GI’s, and maggots swarm over mutilated corpses. This $40,000 micro-budget film is limited in some of its settings especially flashback scenes to Vietnam where it is pretty obvious that the filming was done in some suburban backyard, plus some of the filming is a bit amateurish at times but it also adds to the almost documentary feel of the soul crushing footage.

Combat Shock was independently financed and produced but was distributed by Troma Studios, and studio head Lloyd Kaufman has referred to this film in interviews as one of his company’s masterpieces. It is definitely the most depressing film in Troma’s catalog, as Combat Shock is a relentless, dark project that will deliver nothing but dismay and despair to virtually all viewers. Combat Shock is a perfect example of a micro-budget film that delivers true horror while not deviating too far from today’s headlines and making a social statement of a need for urban renewal at the same time. Combat Shock is very much recommended for those with more of a social conscious but appreciate a film filled with true societal dread and a hopeless realism. Combat Shock is as scary as any film in recent memory, but not because of the monsters in the shadows but rather the big city nasty realism that slums on every garbage and graffiti-covered street corner.

* * * *

–Mark

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