VFW follows a ragtag group of war veterans that must defend their bar from a mob of drugged out psychos hellbent on retrieving a stolen stash of a highly addictive new drug from within the confines of their VFW establishment.
I saw someone compare VFW to Hobo with a Shotgun, and I find that to be a rather astute observation. VFW has a very similar feel to it, utilizing the grindhouse aesthetic with 80s b-horror practical gore effects and neon-lit settings. That aesthetic, of course, comes with a variety of quirks...such as a cheesy script, over-the-top performances, and a standardized stylization associated with the homage. VFW doesn't break any of these trends, behaving almost like a self-aware, poor man's Expendables.
Not that this film was aiming to please in this category, but the acting is over-the-top when it's at its best and pretty abysmal when it's at its worst. I'd attack the script, but for better or for worse, it feels well-crafted to suit the style and homage it was setting out to achieve. It's also easier to not only excuse, but embrace the cheesiness when it comes with a whacky delivery that adds to the flavor. There are times where it feels like the film is taking itself too seriously, or at least missing the mark in the full-blown dive into the insanity.
It plays out more like a deranged action film than anything terribly horror related, but the thing about grindhouse is that it has always blurred that line. This film definitely succeeds at that with its gratuitous and guts-laden violence and psychologically unhinged characters. But a drug-addled gang of psychos is only as interesting as their portrayal, which in this care works inconsistently.
Any time the film takes a breath to reexamine its characters or plot, it feels too long...only because these moments feel like they are desperate to grasp onto some semblance of emotional weight, but the acting and writing can't get it there. It's almost like watching the film struggle to keep its head above water by trying to butterfly-stroke across an Olympic-sized pool and you just beg for it to go back to the kiddie pool where it belongs.
I desperately want to care about the world being built, but the social commentary on our growing epidemic with drug addiction and the struggles of aging veterans is familiar and offers little new material, if any. The stories plays out predictably, but in such a way that it feels purposeful. Like, the movie is one giant 'member-berry bush of b-movie dark action romps of the 80s. It's just wrapping the old fun in a new consumable package. And to that end, VFW is a success, just not one I'm terribly attached to. I'll watch anything with Stephen Lang at this point, but as is the case with this film, it's sometimes with a mild level of obligation and a heavy dose of boredom-salving brainless fun.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10 Horror Quality: 4/10 Film Quality: 5/10