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John’s Horror Corner: VFW (2019), this “siege horror” is an unmonstrous Feast (2005) loaded with brutal impalement and credible heroes.

August 21, 2020

MY CALL: For such an over-the-top gorefest, the characters are written surprisingly credibly. So we get to enjoy awesome deaths galore (on a budget) and protagonists who do things that actually make sense. I’d call that a win for director Joe Begos. MORE MOVIES LIKE VFW: For more “siege horror,” check out Night of the Living Dead (1986), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Feast I-III (2005-2009), The Mist (2007), 30 Days of Night (2007), Legion (2010), You’re Next (2011), The Purge (2013) and Green Room (2015).

Also, check out Mark’s very positive review of VFW and THE LAST KNOCK Podcast presents: Siege Horror.

The world has crumbled and law enforcement has retreated from the cities as a new opioid crisis-era drug’s hold on its addicts has created a very fledgling-stage Escape from New York (1981) every man for himself way of life. Riots flood the city streets as our drug dealer (Travis Hammer; Dominion) sprawls across a lounge chair bare-chested under his heavily spiked leather jacket. A drug addict storms his lair only to be impaled in the head by a machete at the hands of his very Doomsday (2008)-chic underboss Gutter (Dora Madison; Bliss, Exists). Crème de la crème, right?

Meanwhile, hanging out at their local VFW, Fred (Stephen Lang; Don’t Breathe, The Monkey’s Paw), Walter (William Sadler; The Grudge, Tales from the Crypt S1Tales from the Crypt: Demon KnightAva’s Possessions), Abe (Fred Williamson; From Dusk till Dawn), Thomas (George Wendt; House, Bliss, Family), Lou (Martin Kove; The Last House on the Left, Cobra Kai) and Doug (David Patrick Kelly; The Crow, Twin Peaks, Dreamscape) heckle each other as veteran’s do, drinking away their worries with oft-one-too-many.

When a woman scrambles into the VFW being chased by numerous strung-out drug addicts, our veterans face a new war on their home turf. And once the violence kicks off, it’s exceptional. A head explodes on-screen to shotgun rounds, people are impaled by blood-geysering axes, a head gets stomped into bloody chunky pulp, and dismemberment abounds. The on-screen impalements are awesomely numerous. It plays out a lot like an organized zombie siege or like Feast (2005) with humans instead of actual monsters, as the hypers (the people addicted to the drug Hype) recklessly storm the VFW bar.

Movies often do a lot of glory-lighting veterans for the sake of it. But in this movie, I find it more credible. These battle-seasoned veterans make some practical decisions and make rational plans to get the job done. They are far from perfect and they know it. They aren’t looking for the best plan, but a fast plan, because time is not on their side when one of their own is mortally injured. Even when things look hopeless and they know it, these guys keep it together and muster their best.

The low budget is most evident when our eyes wander to the sets or notice the occasional guerilla camerawork, and when the action gets crazy it gets a little clunky. But all this is quite forgivable considering the fun to be had with these gory action sequences. The deaths are brutal. I particularly enjoyed the flagpole down the throat. Director Joe Begos (The Mind’s Eye, Bliss) certainly has an eye for the shocking and brutal.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering the experience of the cast (including a lot of action and horror), but these veteran characters were surprisingly likable even considering their deliberately written flaws. They cared about each other and always aimed for the solution to get everyone out alive, no matter how unlikely. These guys are the Hudson and Vasquez of siege horror.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 28, 2020 2:14 pm

    This sounds awesome! I’ll check it out. Thanks for the review.

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