VFW (2019) poster

VFW (2019)


USA. 2019.


Director – Joe Begos, Screenplay – Max Brallier & Matthew McArdle, Producers – Josh Ethier, Amanda Presmyk & Dallas Sonnier, Photography – Mike Testin, Music – Steve Moore, Special Effects Supervisor – Bob Trevino, Makeup Effects – Russell FX (Josh Russell & Sierra Russell), Production Design – Adam Dietrich. Production Company – Fangoria/Channel 83/MFC/Good Wizard/Voltage Pictures.


Stephen Lang (Fred Paras), Fred Williamson (Abe Hawkins), Martin Kove (Lou Clayton), William Sadler (Walter Reed), Sierra McCormick (Lizard/Elizabeth), Travis Hammer (Boz), Tom Williamson (Shawn Mason), David Patrick Kelly (Doug McCarthy), George Wendt (Thomas Zabriski), Dora Madison (Gutter)


The new drug on the street is hylophedrine or hype. Lizard sneaks into the office of the drug dealer Boz and steals several packages of hype. As he works out what has happened, Boz announces to all the addicts that it is open season on Lizard. Lizard seeks refuge in a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) bar run by Fred Paras. As the hypers try to break in after her, Fred and the others fight them off. As Boz and his army of hypers surround the building, the aging veterans barricade themselves in and prepare for a fight to the death.

Director Joe Begos first appeared with the alien abduction film Almost Human (2013), followed by the psychic powers film The Mind’s Eye (2015). I didn’t notice what a sensational director Begos had become until I watched Bliss (2019), wherein Begos and Dora Madison gave their everything in an uncompromising work about a drug trip gone wrong. (Madison also turns up here in a small role as one of the gang members). Subsequent to this, Begos went on to make Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022).

With VFW, Joe Begos assembles a great cast of aging actors, including Stephen Lang, who never really found his calling until he was in his fifties with Avatar (2009); former 1970s Blaxploitation star Fred Williamson; William Sadler who has appeared in everything from Die Hard 2 (1990) to the MCU and is probably best known as Death in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991); Martin Kove, an actor in tv’s Cagney & Lacey (1982-8) who found subsequent fame in 90s B action films; David Patrick Kelly who has played in everything from The Warriors (1979) to Twin Peaks (1990-1) and The Crow (1994). There’s even a small appearance from George Wendt, best remembered as Norm in tv’s Cheers (1982-93), who naturally gets to sit at the end of the bar drinking before being killed off early in the show.

At siege in a bar Fred Williamson, William Sadler, Stephen Lang, Sierra McCormick and Tom Williamson in VFW (2019)
At siege in a bar – (l to r) Fred Williamson, William Sadler, Stephen Lang, Sierra McCormick and Tom Williamson

VFW could be a version of The Expendables (2010) for the horror genre, although the actors cast are not ones that particularly have a standing in the horror genre. The whole point the plot hangs around is bringing the actors out as creaky old men getting themselves together for the last big fight. From there, Begos very quickly wades in and gets the film knee deep in gore. The attack and defence scenes, which make up the bulk of the film, come with an admirably unremitting ferocity.

Begos and his scriptwriters have clearly conceived VFW as a homage to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). There is the same plot in both films with a group in a building – various cops and prisoners in a police precinct house in Precinct 13, veterans in a bar here – at siege from gangland crazies outside who are determined to break in – the gang seeking a man who shot one of their number in Precinct 13, addicts seeking Sierra McCormick who stole a stash of drugs here. In both there is a ferocious fight to defend the turf against the mindless hordes outside trying to break in. Begos even extends the homage to having a very Carpenter-esque synthesizer score. In both films you tend to wonder exactly how badly society has collapsed that such a high degree of mayhem, violence and mass slaughter can go on in the apparent absence of any law enforcement authorities stepping in.

Trailer here

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