Combat Shock/American Nightmares 25yrs on is still as powerful as I first remembered it on an old vhs copy I owned in the late 80s. Its unparalled cinematic portrayal of grinding poverty and despair is so brutally gruelling, that after viewing it I felt like I'd just emerged from some kind of tepid sludge bath.
This film wears its influences lightly enough to make it more than simply another 'Nam or Schlock film. There is much more going on here. Its not just its honest directness that all independent films have in common or even its defiant refusal to give us final redemption. Many films before this one used that device but it didn't leave such a lasting impression.
It was even more relevant in the 80s when homelessness was a significant problem in the states because of the Reagan administration's social policies. This was a snapshot of what happens to a person when they fall through the cracks in a system with little or no safety net. Even if they had served in a war.