And here we are, the first post of the final 50 in this project! And already I’m deviating from my original plan. Okay, to be fair, lotsa deviating goes on around Castle B, but still. My point is, I planned to go back the drawing titles from The Great Cinema Coffee Can and kinda finish things up the way they started. But dire circumstances give rise to a wee detours.
Y’see, my dear friends and fellow bloggers Film Miasma and Cinema Parrot Disco have unintentionally and unwittingly boxed me in to rewatching and reviewing VFW. Cinema Parrot Disco really likes this movie, whilst Film Miasma seems to be a little more lukewarm about it.
I felt obligated, therefore, to have another look so’s I might weigh in and break the tie, thereby settling the issue with beatific grace and Solomon-like wisdom. Or at the very least offer the unsolicited opinions of a bitter, broken down, pipe smoking, cheap booze drinking, caffeine addicted old hack such as myself.
I really hated VFW the first time I saw it. Part of that may indeed have been from my being biased right from the off because I found Don’t Breathe to be really slow, outrageously overrated, and yet surprisingly vile. I really hated both the movie and the character played by Stephen “Turkey Baster Guy” (™Film Miasma) Lang.
So, where do I start? I guess I have to admit that I liked VFW marginally more the second time than I did the first time. Marginally. This isn’t the first time such a thing has occurred. I had the same thing happen with The VVitch for example.
On one hand, VFW was, at least in part, clearly a vehicle for a gang of FX types to showcase their skills which they do with wild, gleeful abandon. Chainsaws, axes, flagpoles, big-bladed sword type thingies, even a concrete saw. The body count is imPRESSive. The whole movie is essentially one long stabby, slicey, head-stompy, explodey splatterfest.
True, things drag just a bit after the first two deaths within the first 5-10 minutes, but once The Main Plot Point involving stolen drugs gets introduced, the pretty much nonstop shenanigans ensue.
As Film Miasma points out, VFW also hearkens back to Assault On Precinct 13 (which, shamefully, I’ve never seen, but I’ll take his word for it as I trust him implicitly). But it also has clear connections to First Blood (nasty booby traps), From Dusk Til Dawn (without the vampires), Repo! The Genetic Opera (without the music but with a highly addictive superdrug called Hype), and 28 Days Later (but with drugged out maniacs called Hypers instead of infected).
And like the homage Film Miasma suggested about Assault On Precinct 13, there’s a fine case to be made for VFW being a bloodsoaked reworking of The Magnificent Seven which, I don’t need to remind anyone (but will anyhow) is itself a Westernized reboot of The Seven Samurai. But hear me out.
So we’ve got a bunch of drug-crazed lunatics who’ve turned the city into a Death Wish 3 style war zone. They’re exploited by the gang leader, Boz (Travis Hammer), who controls all the drugs. Boz callously causes the death of one of these drug zombies, but uh-oh, she’s got a sister, Elizabeth, who everyone calls Lizard. Lizard steals the drugs he was gonna sell for an obscene amount of money, almost gets caught, and takes shelter across the street at the VFW.
And who’s in there? Why 7, yes count ’em, 7 vets. WhAAAt?? Yup. Tell me that was an accident. If it was, then some cinematic muses came down and licked the writers’ brains. So, while there’s no village to save from Calvera, there is an extended battle complete with guns, explosives, booby traps and a leader-to-leader exchange a la Hammer/Eli Wallach and Lang/Yul Brynner.
And like The Magnificent Seven, there’s a treasure trove of familiar faces as Cinema Parrot Disco points out: Martin “Karate Kid/Cobra Kai” Kove, George Wendt (yup, Norm sitting at another bar), William Sadler, David Patrick “Warriorrrrrs! Come out to play-ee-yaaayyy” Kelly, and Fred Williamson who will still be able to kick my ass when he’s 90.
As I mentioned above, I have to admit that while I do like VFW a tiny bit more the second time, ultimately, between Cinema Parrot Disco and Film Miasma, I come down smack dab in the middle, thereby resolving nothing. So much for my final, authoritative pronouncement on this subject. Did I mention the Solomon-like wisdom? Oh well. In the words of of the late Edith Massey, “Can’t be lucky every day!”
BODIES- 72 (this one I had to look up as I lost count wwwaaay early)
Streaming- AMC+, Shudder, Sling
Rent- AMC On Demand, Apple, Google Play, Prime, Vudu, YouTube