Visual effects are not just explosions and animated characters. There is likely no Hollywood movie, even dramas that don't have some type of effects.
Production Value- Make your audience believe you must have had a huge budget
or not notice you didn't have a budget at all
Some of the best effects are the ones the audience never notices- equipment removal, set extensions, sign replacement. These are all effects that are very achievable for an independent film maker. These will bring your film to the next level of quality.
There is no such thing as a movie or film with no visual effects, Not in our modern day any way.
Even YouTube videos have some stunning effects. I am not talking just about effects you know you see.
Some of the best visual effects are invisible to the audience. These include things like removing rigging from the shot. Or extending the set far beyond what would otherwise be possible. Have to film in your back yard? Turn it into a mountainous jungle.
You can make the film you want, you can show your audience the world you have in your head. Many visual effects are no longer locked into only Blockbuster Movies from big studios.
Between D.I.Y. and high quality freelancers you can have a $$$ looking film for $.