VFW **** USA 2019 Dir: Joe Begos. 88 mins
That’s “Veterans of Foreign Wars” to you and me. In this barnstorming riff on modern horror’s great siege movies (notably NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13), America’s opioid problem is out of control and the addicts of “Hype” resort to any means necessary to get their fix in a crumbled society.
Onscreen time stamps echo the Carpenter film, alongside its vision of American suburbia as a war zone, and the fabulous pounding, pulsing electronic score by Steve Moore. The veterans gathered at the eponymous VFW bar are veteran stars of movies and shows we love, celebrating Stephen Lang’s birthday. Martin Kove wants to get the celebration over with so they can all go to the titty bar. William Sadler, George Wendt and David Patrick Kelly join in with liquored-up ‘Nam anecdotes, Viagra gags and old aerobics VHS tapes, while a discussion about modern laser pussy shaving prompts a nostalgic Fred Williamson to reflect on buying toothpicks by the gross “back in the day”. Joined by a veteran of a different generation – returning Afghan war serviceman Tom Williamson – the old-timers, accidentally housing a valuable stash of Hype, have their boozy yarn-spinning interrupted by a gang of vicious punks.
Director Joe Begos unleashes a marvellous mixture of poignant / hilarious character beats and hardcore old-school action. It turns on a dime from exploding heads and eyeball poking to moving speeches about veterans coming home just to be washed up and die. The cast of experienced exploitation / action stars (and CHEERS!) have huge fun with tooling up montages and one-liners (“Damn impatient millennials”) though you probably have to see it with a festival crowd to truly appreciate Williamson getting a face full of Hype and tripping balls – and the look on William Sadler’s face as he picks up a MASSIVE buzz saw. Director Begos showed considerable promise with ALMOST HUMAN and last year’s BLISS – but this not only knocks it out of the park…it drags it back into the park just so it can bludgeon its face in.
Review by Steven West