“VFW” – Movie Review

We’ve seen generational gaps over the centuries, but nothing quite like this.  Joe Begos’ latest horror/action/thriller pits a group of older (and one younger) veterans against a horde of drug-induced mutant punks.  It’s gory, over the top, boasts a great 80’s inspired synth soundtrack, and is awesome in every way!

You can check out Joe Begos’ previous film Bliss on Shudder!

Birthday From Hell
The film begins with Fred (Stephen Lang) meeting up at his local VFW with his friends Walter (William Sadler), Abe (Fred Williamson), Lou (Martin Kove), Doug (David Patrick Kelly), and Thomas (George Wendt), all of whom are veterans of Vietnam or Korea.  Everyone is wishing Fred a happy birthday (much to his dismay), when a newcomer Shawn (Tom Williamson), just having returned from overseas, shows up.

Some of the best action/horror films begin with a completely different premise, then turn into horror (like From Dusk Till Dawn).

A good time is had, and they even make plans to go to an adult show later to celebrate Fred’s birthday when Elizabeth “Lizard” (Sierra McCormick) runs into their VFW bar with a bag of drugs she stole from a dealer, as revenge for him killing her sister.  What ensues is a barrage of attacks from the dealer and his army of addicts, who will do anything he tells him.  Despite being vastly outnumbered, the veterans form a new platoon and make ready to hold their post to the death!

Dirty Dozen Meets Green Room
VFW works so brilliantly for two reasons: its ensemble cast and the fact that it holds absolutely nothing back.  Between Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Fred Williamson, Martin Kove, and so many more, it’s a real who’s who of accomplished veteran (no pun intended) actors over the last few decades.

Can you ask for a more awesome cast than this?!

They each have a large body of work on their resume and, more importantly, they play really well off of each other.  With only just a few minutes in the beginning, the writing and performances successfully establish a strong camaraderie and bond between these characters, going back decades.

And of course, when the fighting begins, horror fans won’t be disappointed with the gleeful gallery of gore and carnage!  The violence is very stylized, and over the top (intentionally so) at times.  But it involves a fun variety of weapons like an axe, hockey stick, pool cues, firearms (of course), and really any random item that they can get their hands on.

Stephen Lang already proved how terrifying he can be in Don’t Breathe, and it’s fascinting to see him tap into that same energy here, but using it for good.

Honoring the Vets
On the surface, it would have been very easy for this film to praise the boomers and demonize young people, or vice-versa.  Fortunately however, it takes a much more nuanced approach.  It’s not so much a clash between ages as it is a clash between values.

The veterans valuing honor and protecting people, and the drug dealer valuing money and having a complete disregard for life, even for his own group.  Despite being decades younger than the rest of the group, Shawn is immediately welcomed.  And similarly, Lizard becomes an honorary member after she too fights alongside them.

The drug dealer Boz (Travis Hammer), is creepy and charismatic in his own way, despite not getting much screentime. He could have proved as a compelling foil to the veterans, but we don’t really get enough of him for that.

During one of the quieter scenes in between battle, Fred explains to Lizard that it doesn’t matter whether someone fought in the jungle or the desert, veterans are veterans and they always have a home in the VFW.  It’s a home that not only protects their own, but others as well.

The entire reason they don’t simply give up Lizard to the drug dealer is because, as Walter points out, the second she came into their bar, she came under their protection, and they do not take that duty lightly.

They understand the importance of taking a stand together, and that’s very much what this film ultimately means.

Overall, VFW is a fun, action-packed callback to 80’s film.  Especially with its synth music and creative use of colors with lighting.  It takes itself seriously in all the right parts, and knows when to just have fun in all the right times as well!

What did you think of VFW?  Let us know in the comments below.  And for more reviews, rankings, lists, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook and Twitter!

 

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