Vampires vs. the Bronx is about three boys who are best friends. They're facing a great new wave of change in their beloved Bronx, but only Miguel has been working as an activist to save the heritage and culture of the neighborhood from being overrun by hipsters. When Miguel stumbles on a vampire conspiracy linked back to the group buying up property all over the neighborhood, he, Bobby and Luis try and come up with a plan to save their lives and the neighborhood. The film stars Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV, Sarah Gadon, Cliff "Method Man" Smith, Shea Whigham, Coco Jones, Joel "The Kid Mero" Martinez, Jeremie Harris, Imani Lewis, and Zoe Saldaña. It is directed by Oz Rodriguez and is written by Rodriguez and Blaise Hemingway. The film is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
I like a good horror comedy and I especially like a good horror comedy without excess gore. Yet, sometimes it felt like this is a vampire film without teeth. There are several supernatural kills and supernatural thrills, but I feel Vampires vs. the Bronx could have pushed the envelope a little more in that direction. I don't remember seeing any blood that wasn't washed out by lighting or just around a vamp's mouth or claws for a brief moment. The MPAA must be ridiculously strict about blood these days.
There weren't any blood and guts effects, but there were a few surprising effects. It's rare in the overwhelmingly CGI cinema space we live in to be awed by genuine movie magic. There was one great scene that made me sit up and look more closely. When a man is bitten by a whistling vampire, the vampire lifts the two of them into the air and when he's finished, he drops his victim to the ground. It wasn't the stunt that impressed me, but that it looked so real. There's also an effect they accomplished with boiling holy water in water balloons and soda bottles that also made me scratch my head in the best way. Many props to Johann Kunz the Special Effects Supervisor.
I also appreciated the vintage Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes from the vamps themselves. There was a special makeup effect for them that looked excellent. Then, the costumes that were beyond vintage, were an excellent touch and added a hipster level to the coven that made sense for the story. I also love the CGI effect of the vampire death, very effective and looked like it had practical elements as well. The icing on the cake, though, is that the vampire front organization is called Murnau, as in F.W. Murnau, the famed silent film director who brought Nosferatu to the screen.
As for the story, it's very engaging. Blaise Hemingway and Oz Rodriguez have put an interesting spin on the coming of age and let's save the neighborhood subgenres. It's hard not to see this film as a response to the white supremacy movements that have gained strength under the current presidential administration. Gentrification has always been an urban woe as families who have lived in the neighborhood for generations are priced out to make way for new and "better," but the film nearly makes it explicitly about the racial makeup of the neighborhood as the pale white vampires call the majority Latino and Black community, trash. It adds to the drama and is an excellently poignant touch to the proceedings.
I really like Sarah Gadon. She's an actress who has these large blue eyes and this platinum blonde hair that always lures you into a false sense of security. In most of the major roles I've seen her in, she has a brilliant maneuver of making you feel like you should be protecting her, then flipping a switch and catching you off guard. It's a very nice trick to have in her actor's arsenal. Despite me expecting a twist every time I see her, she still always surprises me.
Vampires vs the Bronx is a fun movie. It has some great characters, a cool storyline and excellent action. While I didn't grow up in an area like the Bronx, which has a rich history and a small town feel, I can identify with the sting of a wave of change that doesn't benefit me. Change can be very good to revitalize a community, but if it's in an effort to destroy the community as it exists it's not a change that should be promoted. If you want a lightly spooky fun time, pop on Vampires vs. the Bronx.