Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by cult-favorite filmmaker Joe Begos (Bliss), VFW is a new schlocky action-horror flick that serves as a wonderful throwback to the drive-in splatter features of yesteryear. Thanks to a fun and gleefully over-the-top sense of style, Begos’s film is a total hoot, and a must see for any fan of the genre.
The movie follows a group of veterans spending the night in the local VFW as they must fight to survive when they are targeted by a drug dealer and his gang of angry punk mutants. If this premise doesn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense, that’s because it doesn’t, but Begos goes all-in on the lunacy, covering up for some of the deficiencies in Max Brailler and Matthew McArdle’s script.
From the moment the action gets started, the film never lets up. Even when there seems to be a reprieve, the characters are never truly safe. Although this doesn’t have a lot of explanation in regards to the world of the movie, it does allow the film to be relentlessly entertaining. Those who are uninitiated to the aggressive pacing of classic B-movies may find themselves put off by how rushed it feels, but this will almost certainly satisfy fans.
One of the most surprising strengths of this movie is that the character development is relatively impressive. Although there are some archetypes to be found, especially with some of the less integral characters, it is easy to sympathize with all of the heroes. The film is really built off of the dynamic between the characters, and as a result, it works very well.
Stephen Lang (Avatar, Don’t Breathe) is the lead of the movie, and he does an excellent job as the war-hardened hero of the film. The script requires very little of him other than kicking butt and delivering brief tidbits of wisdom, and he does so very well. The supporting ensemble, including William Sadler, Martin Kove, and George Wendt, is also strong, many of them being in place mostly to deliver witty one-liners.
Arguably the most impressive thing about this movie, though, is its practical effects. As one would expect, this film is heavily reliant on gore, and the special effects do a wonderful job of recreating the look and feel which Begos is so obviously trying to capture. Admittedly, none of it looks particularly realistic, but that isn’t the purpose anyway.
Stylistically, Begos’s movie is a bit too dark for its own good at times, as the low lighting does make it hard to see some of the sequences, but there is still a lot of ambition. The production design, for example, is very good. With the film being set in and around a single location, Begos does a good job of immersing the viewer in the world of the movie.
Although VFW is far from a perfect film, it is entertaining for what it is — a throwback to a genre of movies that are notoriously so bad they’re good. This isn’t for anyone outside of hardcore fans, but those hardcore fans will likely lead this to get a cult following.
VFW is now in theaters and on VOD.