Vampires Vs. The Bronx Review: A fun and engaging vampire flick perfect for Halloween
With his sophomore feature as a director, Osmany “Oz” Rodriguez gives Netflix a fun vampire flick with some compelling modern themes that are perfect for the spooky season with his newest film – Vampires Vs. the Bronx.
Honestly, with all of the modernizations to classic movie monsters lately, it’s incredibly refreshing for Rodriguez to bring back classic vampires with all of their classic rules and weaknesses. Having black cloaked nightwalkers invade the streets of the Bronx on the hunt for blood and seeking to spread to their power really hits a nostalgic mark that’s heightened through some great nods to vampire lore. With the film’s young heroes gear up with garlic, holy water, wooden stakes, and plenty of other famous vampire-killing weapons, classic rules like vampires having a human servant known as a familiar that does their daytime bidding, and even seeing a vampire’s reflection, or lack thereof, in camera feeds and videos looked great and brings viewers back to the roots of the genre’s most iconic monster. I will say it was disappointing to see Vampires Vs. the Bronx be as bloodless as it was, but the great effects, especially for the looks of the vampires, nods to Blade, one of the most ruthless and underrated vampire hunters ever, and the gothic score from Brooke and Will Blair more than show how great Rodriguez is bring back vampires in their original form.
These vampires aren’t totally out for blood though and their motivations actually bring out the very modern themes of gentrification that this film touches on really well. With the vampires masquerading as a real estate business looking to bring in more high-end buyers and businesses and drive the locals out, the fears and impact of gentrification can be instantly felt. With the logos of the vampire’s business all over closed down businesses that once belonged to local businesses and landmarks as well as constant talk about people from the Bronx disappearing and that no one will even notice, the devastation of gentrification is showcases incredibly well. It shows how not only a general livelihood, but also a culture can be ripped away simply through heightening bills and rates just to get a “stronger,” usually whiter, clientele to move in. It’s always great to see horror touch on relevant themes, especially now with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hitting small businesses the hardest, and it’s done so in a way that’s integral to the plot so that it feels personal and really connects with you.
It’s something that’s especially connected with the film’s main protagonist Miguel (Jaden Michael) – a young kid from the Bronx that’s desperate to keep a local bodega open as his neighborhood and upbringing slowly starts to fade around him. Although he’s young and not always finding the support he wants in saving a local bodega that he and his friends, Bobby (Gerald Jones III) and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV), grew up with, he’s such a driven character that’s motivated and eager to make a change in how things are going through bringing the community together. His fight against gentrification is really uplifting, especially because of how personal the things he saving mean to him, and it becomes even more dire when he and his friends find that vampires are ones trying to push them out to great the nest of all vampire nests.
The film’s main trio of friends truly embody the humorous heart this film has as their chemistry and dynamic are awesome. The way they rag on each other and poke fun at Miguel’s naivety their friendship feels real and very easy to connect to. The three of them clearly are having a blast every step of the way and they’re truly a trio of young heroes that you’re always rooting for and have their back. It’s also nice that they have other things going on during this vampire invasion like Bobby having trouble with a local gang leader that’s connected to his father’s death and Miguel trying to win the heart of an older girl named Rita (Coco Jones) as it makes you care about them a little deeper. The performances from everyone add in a greater charm as well and they work really well within the light-hearted script from Rodriguez and co-writer Blaise Hemingway.
There’re also some really fun supporting performances that help create a cast of strong likeable characters. Sarah Gadon is incredibly fun as Vivian, a woman who moves to the area, since she seems innocent at first, but becomes a much more threatening role that she totally thrives in. Seeing the likes of Shea Whigham is always going to be great as he always carries a strong screen presence and the same can be said about Method Man here as Father Jackson. It’s really funny to see him in a much more serious role with a more daunting tone, but he surprisingly nails it and always made me laugh when he appears. Joel “The Kid Mero” Martinez also shines as Tony, the bodega owner, as he has infectious charm that makes every scene with him great and the way that he acts as a father-figure/mentor for the group is very endearing. Even just having Imani Lewis acting as sort of narrator/social media mogul with Gloria adds in a lot of great personality that makes watching the film really enjoyable and works well with how Rodriguez creates a strong showing of community.
Whether its Miguel’s mom yelling for him out of a window or everyone calling Miguel “Lil Mayor” as he passes, Rodriguez really makes this community feel real. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows each other and there’s always connections that can be seen. News travels fast and although they might differ and bicker from time to time, they’ll always be there for one another and the way Rodriguez shows this in the final sequence where the film pretty much lives up to its name is great. Admittedly, it would’ve been nice to see a much bigger and blown out battle between the Bronx and vampires, but it’s great moment anyway and leaves things on a very positive note.
Anyone looking for an incredibly fun flick for Halloween, that also has a Netflix subscription, should definitely check out Vampires Vs. the Bronx. Not only does it bring vampires back to classic form to face off against an incredibly likeable trio, but it also touches on some relevant themes of gentrification that makes it an incredibly compelling and engaging watch.