VFW, directed by Joe Begos (Bliss, Almost Human) is an old school delight for any horror fan or anyone who enjoys a good grindhouse/exploitation film. Gritty, grimy, dingy, bloody, gory, it ticks all the right boxes, the neon red and blue drenched visuals helped along by a solid cast and a thumping, synth-heavy soundtrack that would sound right at home in just about any John Carpenter movie.
It is the near future, society is ravaged by a new drug called Hype, but the details don’t actually matter. All that really matters is its intimate setting and plot. A girl called Lizard steals drugs from local drug dealer Boz. He doesn’t take kindly to this and sics all the local junkies on her to run her down and kill her. It just so happens that in the local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) bar there’s a birthday party going on for grumpy owner/bartender Fred.
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When she bursts into the bar, pursued by axe-toting drug addicts who aren’t interested in negotiating, the night swiftly descends into an orgy of blood and gore as the soldiers stand their ground to defend both the girl and their bar, seizing onto one more chance to be the soldiers they once were, standing up against injustice and doling out a well-deserved thrashing to the local low-lifes at the same time. The banter between the characters as they prepare for their last stand is both warm and realistic, the audience easily able to believe that these are men who have served and bled together.
Before we go any further, I do have one thing to say: if you want to own this, buy an HD version. Because the visuals, as mentioned above, are indeed grimy, dark and dingy and in some of the more intense fight scenes inside the bar it does occasionally get difficult to see what’s going on in standard def. Blu-ray/HD VOD is absolutely the way to go here.
Moving on, let’s talk casting. We’ve got some pretty well known names here for anyone who’s been paying attention to movies over the last couple of decades. Fred is played by the always amazing Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe, Avatar) and his buddies include Walter, played by William Sadler (The Mist, Shawshank Redemption), Lou, played by Martin Kove (Cobra Kai, Rambo 2) and Doug, played by David Patrick Kelly (Twin Peaks, The Crow). Hell, they even got Norm (George Wendt) from Cheers!
VFW is an up close and personal smack in the face. The action is messy, gritty, close-quarters brawling. This isn’t The Matrix, this is a hour long bar fight and it’s a delicious, meaty pile of head explosions, dismembered body parts and fountains of blood that would make Tarantino blush. But as mentioned before, it’s not just the visuals, or the cast, the soundtrack has a huge part to play and hats off to Steve Moore (Bliss, Mayhem) here. The soundtrack is a delight, working perfectly within the film to enhance the scenes, whilst also standing alone quite nicely as something to listen to on its own merits. Standout tracks include ‘Opening’, ‘Axe Attack’ and ‘I Think We’re Gonna Be Fine’. Another track, ‘Walk it Off’, strongly reminds me of the track ‘Duel’ from the UK release of the Cybercity Oedo 808 soundtrack, in fact.
VFW likely won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but for those who like their horror a bit sleazy, when they prefer it when the film’s been rolling around in the gutter and coated in booze and blood? This is one of the finest movies we’ve had in a while.