Ah, teenagers fighting and killing vampires to protect their homes and families. LOVE IT!
This movie reminded me marginally of another movie on this list, Fright Night*, and a bunch of other Disney Channel-esque films where a group of kids, usually with no adults willing to believe them, go adventure-fighting supernatural forces to save everyone because they are just darn good kids. (For the record, I saw Fright Night once when I was, like, ten, and I only remember kids, Dracula, and not knowing what a virgin was, so don’t hold that comparison too close to candlelight.*)
Anyway, this Netflix film, directed by Oz Rodriguez, was a funny Halloween romp if you aren’t looking to be scared or overly dramatic. Oh, and the vampires are all white, blonde gentrifiers. Yay for allegory!
***SPOILERS but honestly, there is nothing unexpected about this movie***
Viewers start out being privy to a business deal between a salon owner and some dude. Said dude, we come to find, is named Frank Polidori (Shea Whigham), and he works for Murnau (HA!), an agency buying up all the shops in the Bronx and renting them out to trendy hipster stores, like one that sells only butter and spreads (is this real?? is this a thing people need a whole store for??) The salon owner is then attacked by a lurking figure in the background (spoiler: vampire), and then the scene changes.
The camera begins following Miguel, aka Lil Mayor (Jaden Michael) as he rides his bike around the streets of the Bronx, greeting everyone and putting up flyers for a block party to raise money for his friend Tony’s (Joel “The Kid Mero” Martinez”) bodega. Miguel and his friends, Bobby (Gerald W. Jones III) and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) used to spend their free time at Tony’s bodega while their parents were at work, and so they looked at the place as a sort of second home.
Miguel and Bobby lament the loss of yet another local business as they try to pick up some older girls, but it isn’t until Luis returns from Tampa and the three of them see a local drug dealer attacked by a vampire that they realize something is up. With the movie Blade as reference, the kids try to find a way to stop the vampires from buying up more of the Bronx and using the “people that no one cares about” as a food supply.
I won’t get too much into the rest of it because it’s a relatively simple movie, and, while the twist is pretty obvious, I don’t want to give it away, just in case. What I’ll say about this movie is that, while it’s simple, it makes an effort to be heartfelt, and the sense of community is ever-present and heartwarming. There isn’t a lot of gore; the fighting is easily overcome, and you don’t have to fear for the main characters–not really. But that sweetness and simplicity is under the layer of the huge metaphor, if you can call it that: the vampires, while actually causing gentrification, are quite vivid stand ins for real life gentrifiers. While the fictional vampires literally just want to eat people, real world perpetrators of gentrification are sucking the life, resources, and money from communities in very real time. Sometimes, a movie doesn’t have to be deep to be deep. Gentrification is violence, even if the people causing it don’t have pointy teeth.
Now, I didn’t have qualms with the simplicity of the film, or the pacing. The writing felt funny and natural, for the most part (except for that random almost-kissing scene), and the acting was fine. What I felt was lacking actually had to do with the sudden inclusion of one of the older girls I mentioned earlier. While Miguel and Co. are strutting around trying to solve a vampire mystery, one of the members of their church and neighborhood, Rita (Coco Jones), becomes a part of the group. She has some knowledge about vampires that the boys don’t (such as vampires not showing up in mirrors or videos, which, like, everyone should know), and she decides to help them out.
The thing is, Rita doesn’t do much. She pops up a couple times and just sort of has some lines. She goes to the vampire nest with the others, but then leaves before the action to warn everyone about impending doom (and it works this time, somehow, despite no one listening beforehand.) It isn’t that I wouldn’t have enjoyed a teenage girl being put into the dynamic, but it felt really, reaaalllly forced, and I’m still cringing over it a little. Just a smidge.
But, if you’re looking for some easy background noise, or a movie to watch with kids (there is cussing, though, and stabbing, and guns, and one use of the word “drug,” I think, but way more tame than), then Vampires vs. the Bronx is a great choice.
Drink some water,
Update 10-14-20: It was not, indeed, Fright Night that I watched as a kid, but Monster Squad, but the comparison still hits. The description for Fright Night was just similar enough to my vague childhood memory to confuse me. Whoops!