Ever since I heard Steve Moore’s score for The Guest I firmly believe that he is the secret ingredient to a truly great cinematic experience. Moore won me over of course as synth/bass wizard in the horror prog duo Zombi, but when I first saw The Guest and became enamored with that score it felt like Moore found his true calling. He was that last but incredibly important detail for the promising independent filmmaker to give their flick the cred it needed to go from late night fun drunk watch to future cult classic. I can’t imagine a film like Cub or Bliss without Steve Moore’s dark and foreboding synth. It’s a character, just as much as the actors are.
Moore seems to have created quite the symbiotic working relationship with Joe Begos. Moore has scored Begos’ The Mind’s Eye, Bliss, and most recently 2020s VFW. Begos’s work is a trip back to VHS gore and word-of-mouth flicks you heard about in Fangoria, Gorezone, and that weird dude that worked at the video store that wore Bauhaus t-shirts. His films go for over-the-top gore via practical effects, bigger than life personalities, and broken people looking for some kind of redemption(sometimes they find it, and sometimes they don’t.)
With VFW, we’re given a throwback flick of the 80s kind. Crusty old dudes having to break out their fighting chops to do what’s right. In this case, it’s a bunch of Vietnam vets in a VFW who are protecting a girl from both maniacal drug dealers and the rabid addicts who want the drugs she stole. Steve Moore locks into the classic vibes of Cannon, Vestron, and AVCO Embassy home videos, bringing up the tension with his mixture of heavy synth and percussive blasts. In other words, Moore once again works his magic and gives us a score that works both in the film and on the turntable.
For VFW the mood is foreboding and dread-inducing. It’s the Alamo, but at a rundown bar with a bunch of tired old guys that only want to drink beer and go see some strippers. Steve Moore keeps the score low key, like a fog building outside the doors of this dilapidated downtown mausoleum with five beers on tap. Moore locks into Carpenter vibes, helping to give Begos’ film the sleek sonic anxiety it needs. Something like the eight minute “Montage” gives us everything we need; rhythmic motion, mood building, and the feel of a lost 80s score. “There’s No Negotiating” is a blitzkrieg to the senses, with blood-spattered conviction, but then settles into dark ambient vibes to lull us into unsettled calm. “Enough To Kill The Kid Over” is slow-building, but always with its intent just under the surface. The menace of danger just outside the door lives and breathes here. “I Think We’re Gonna Be Fine” pushes the tension full blast with propulsive percussion, like a marching band doing a half-time show in Hell.
Over the course of the runtime of VFW Steve Moore works his magic, giving us a slow-burning soundscape of deadly calm and feverish dread that pushes Begos’ film along on a cloud of dark perpetuation. Moore has also given us an album of late night vibes and dark introspection that we can add to the collection. Much like The Guest, Bliss, and Moore’s many other scores, VFW is a standalone LP of exquisite dark ambient and heavy synth.
Another stunner from the maestro Steve Moore. And the movie is pretty damn good, too.
8.5 out of 10