Armed with primitive weapons and homemade boobytraps, a group of grizzled, geriatric war vets barricade themselves inside a bar under attack from rabid droves of feral, drug-fuelled hoodlums.

This is the effortlessly simple premise of VFW (Veterans from Foreign Wars) and director Joe Begos doesn’t waste any time pretending his feature is a vehicle for deeper metaphors or societal critiques. VFW is handcrafted like Robert Rodriguez’s Machete or Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses, as a devout homage to the subgenres that inspired it (in the case of VFW, dystopian science fiction and splatter movies).

The sensational violence is reminiscent of paragons like Braindead and Evil Dead II while the unrefined combat which takes place exclusively in the gloomy bar and its car park is homogenous with From Dusk Till Dawn and The Warriors. The enemies — dehumanised as “an army of braindead animals” — are ordained like henchmen from 1980s Stallone and Schwarzenegger action movies. But do all of these elements work symbiotically together?

It can be argued that VFW is an uninventive melee of genres, too frightened to deviate from the established cues of its beloved source material, but this would be short-sighted. With its gritty cinematography, amplified violence and John Carpenter-esque soundtrack, VFW is a gruesomely entertaining bloodbath that oozes with nostalgia. It radiates the simple joy of unadulterated fun. With darkly comedic performances from the likes of Stephen Lang and Fred Williamson, the cast understand what Begos wants to achieve. VFW might not earn any awards for its originality, but devotees of the genres Begos is gallantly repurposing will praise him for this 90-minute slugfest.

Stephen Lang
Fred Williamson
William Sadler

Joe Begos

Max Brallier
Matthew McArdle

9 Mar 2020

Posted by Jim Reader

Jim is a London-based journalist who has worked for a number of titles, including Bizarre, Vogue, Boxing News and the Daily Sport. He graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2009 and became a Master of Research in American Literature in 2010.