VAMPIRES VS THE BRONX
(***)-VITO CARLI

"...relies more on good story ideas than flashy special effects..."

Bloodsucking Gentrification

(022021) Vampires vs the Bronx is an unexpectedly clever and socially conscious horror comedy. The big twist here that the film presents vampirism is as a metaphor for gentrification. The gentrifiers are a real estate company called Murnae.

The film was directed by comparatively new film maker, Oz Rodriquez, and it was produced by the SNL kingpin, Lorne Michaels, but it works better than the vast majority of SNL spin offs he produced. Rodriquez and Michaels started working together because Rodriquez had been directing digital shorts (which have sometimes been highlights of the show) for SNL since 2013.

The most prominent cast members (who occupy strong supporting roles) include R & B singer, Coco Jones, and former Wu Tang Clan member, Method Man, who plays a concerned priest who tries to set the young protagonists on the right path. In addition, Chris Redd may be a familiar face because he is a current Saturday Night Live member, and there is even a cameo by Zoe Saldana (
Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Trek), who shares the director’s Dominican heritage. Canadian actress, Sarah Goden (of Mutant X) gets a juicy role as a vampiric version of a “Karen.”

The film has many Do the Right Thing like scenes in which we see effective little snippets of street life. Although they are fictional, they are so intimate and convincing they seem like they are real encounters filmed with people unaware they are being filmed for a doc. One of the hints that change is coming to the neighborhood is that the owner of a struggling bodega is stocking and selling more items like humus that appeal to yuppies.

The film features three very different urban youth characters who are basically decent, but bad luck and being at the wrong places at the wrong times often get them in trouble. Miquel Martinez (Jaden Michael) is basically the regular guy character that everybody can identify with. His two best buddies are the two polar opposites, Louis Acosta (Gregory Diaz IV) who is a nerdy and bookish Puerto Rican kid who is into pop culture, and the high school dropout, Bobby Carter (Gerald W. Jones III) is the most streetwise of the three, and he is in danger of getting recruited into a gang.

The straight arrow Miquel tries to organize and promote a block party to raise money to help his favorite local bodega owner raise money to keep up with the escalating rent. His friends reluctantly help him and the three begin to notice odd things going on in the neighborhood. Denizens keep disappearing but the local population believes that they are just moving to better places or getting priced out. But there are sinister forces at work.

Miquel witnesses a blood sucker commit murder, and eventually proves the vamps exist to their friends, but the adult world thinks the kids just have overactive imaginations (just like in Fright Night). When the kids try to tell a parent she says, “He’s not a vampire, but of course he’s a really bad man, he is in real estate.” Gregory Diaz IV tries to prepare for fighting or defending himself from the vamps by absorbing information from the Blade movies (as many pop culture aficionado kids would do in the situation.)

The 12-year-old in each us will probably be thrilled when whole town teams up against the vamps in a glorious final showdown that includes some but not too much violence (this is as entertaining and scary as a PG 13 horror film can be). But the film always relies more on good story ideas than flashy special effects.

Vampires vs. The Bronze plays like a great updated version of Attack the Block (which was also was about poverty-stricken minority people teaming up to repel invaders to their community) with some elements of Do the Right Thing and Fright Night thrown in. Despite the familiarity of some of these elements both the story and cast seem unexpectedly fresh. Also, the film arguably captures the male childhood experience almost as well as Stand By Me or Goonies. With this title, this film is much better than it should have been or had to be.
 

Directed & Written by:    Oz Rodriquez
Starring:    Jaden Michael, Gerard W, Jones III, Sarah Gadon 
Released:    10/02/20
Length:    86 minutes
Rating:     PG13 for violence, language, and some suggestive
  elements
Available on:    Netflix

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

VAMPIRES VS THE BRONX © 2021 Broadway Video
Review © 2021 Alternate Reality, Inc.