Director, writer Osmany Rodriguez goes in for the kill with ‘Vampires vs. the Bronx’

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

Just in time for Halloween, Primetime Emmy winner and “Saturday Night Live” director Osmany Rodriguez is gracing Netflix viewers with a new comedy horror, “Vampires vs. the Bronx.” The film takes a trip to the uppermost borough of New York and the spooky things that reside there: gentrifying vampires. 

The film focuses on three teenage boys, Miguel aka Lil Mayor (Jaden Michael), Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III). The trio seems to be up against the world trying to save the local bodega, battling gang recruitment and dealing with annoying parents. A vampire invasion is the red, bloody cherry on top. The boys are easy to love, each with their own quirks, problems and funny one-liners. Miguel is the neighborhood golden boy, Luis reads Stephen King and Bobby is the supposed troublemaker — what more do you need? Since Lil Mayor is the first to witness a vampire attack, he leads the crew in their vampire slaying mission, gathering new fighters as they go. Incidental music carries the story along, picking the audience up for the journey. 

The vampires are painfully obvious, causing the movie to lack some allure and suspense. With the borough slowly being plagued with missing person signs, the vampires’ plans are quickly uncovered. Being the only white people in the area and wearing Dracula-esque outfits at night is a major give away. And moving boxed coffins in broad daylight, yikes. Even the less obvious ones are suspect, and everyone in the film can’t help but wonder if the white blonde lady is lost.

“Vampires vs. the Bronx” also gives absolutely no background as to how the clan ended up in the city, making for a lackluster and confusing vampire origin story. But the movie shows that the vampires’ history and previous whereabouts aren’t important. All that matters is that they find a new home to take over, putting the existing people of the Bronx on an expedition to save their beloved neighborhood. Like the conflict in most movies, they can’t all be friends. 

All while the characters arm themselves with a plethora of garlic, crucifixes and wooden stakes, they also have to arm themselves against the looming threat of gentrification. With stores boarding up to become artisan butter stores and coffee shops, the word “gentrification” does not even need to be used once for viewers to understand what’s going on. However, some community members don’t seem to mind selling their businesses for large sums and can’t wait to hit the suburbs. The kids seem more concerned about losing their homes and familiar surroundings than the adults do. “Vampires vs. the Bronx” seamlessly comments on the issue while keeping the mood lighthearted.

The film has a dark tone similar to other vampire movies, with a recurring red light: a clear sign of danger. But, the film is not exactly scary, bloody or gory. It leans on cliches seen in young adventure, save-the-town movies and can be predictable at times. Of course, it takes forever for the adults in the movie to believe that there are bloodsuckers running loose, and that they happen to be behind the real estate company buying up all the property. Also typical, the young boys develop crushes on some of the older girls in the neighborhood, one of whom is played by Coco Jones, known for Disney’s “Let It Shine.” But, these cliches bring a sense of familiarity to the peculiar times of 2020. The actors, even those with minor roles, fully commit to their characters, truly enthralling the audience. 

Highlighting the close-knit camaraderie of the neighborhood makes the movie inherently feel-good. “Vampires vs. the Bronx” is full of laughable moments; the more heartwarming scenes highlight what it means to be a community. This dynamic overpowers the horror aspects the film desperately tries to embed, however, leaving the audience more joyful than frightened. Although Lil Mayor couldn’t save the bodega from being bought, he helped save the entire neighborhood from bloodsucking, gentrifying vampires and concludes the movie on a high note with a much-anticipated block party. The ending is warm, and the film’s final message is clear: Don’t mess with the Bronx.

Contact Daniella Lake at [email protected].