Vampires literally suck the life out of a neighborhood in this clever kids’ tale
By Diana Beechener
Miguel Martinez (Jaden Michael: Blue Bloods) has always cared about his neighborhood. His sense of civic duty has earned him the nickname The Little Mayor in his home borough of the Bronx. Though Miguel stays involved in the community, he’s fighting a losing battle to gentrification. He watches grimly as he sees local businesses bought up by a real estate company, replaced by artisanal cheese stores and expensive coffee shops.
Miguel is horrified when his favorite bodega—the one he’s spent all his free time in since he was a kid—is being priced out of the neighborhood. Miguel decides to organize a block party fundraiser that will help the store’s owner, Tony (Joel “The Kid Mero” Martinez: Blackish), make ends meet.
His friend Bobby (Gerald Jones III: Blue Bloods) tells him the fight for the Bronx is already lost. “Once the white people with canvas bags show up, it’s over,” Bobby laments.
But Miguel isn’t so sure. There’s something off about the real estate company that’s buying up all the shops on his block. The Murnau Enterprises company must be up to something shady; they installed heavy duty blinds on all their buildings and the people accepting payouts are never seen again. When Miguel sees a Murnau representative bare his fangs and bite the neck of a local gangster, he understands what’s happening: Vampires have invaded the Bronx.
Can Miguel convince his friends and family of the danger? Or are Miguel and his neighborhood doomed?
Based around a pointed metaphor and silly hijinks Vampires vs the Bronx is the perfect goofy horror movie for younger spooky cinephiles (and those that don’t like a lot of blood and gore). Think of this as Goonies meets The Lost Boys.
Director Oz Rodriguez (A.P. Bio) keeps the tone light as he follows the kids through their adventures. The core trio are perfect foils for a vampire invasion—they’ve got the overconfidence of youth and the terrible decision making that comes along with being a young teen.
The fact that the boys are goofy but never range into annoying is a testament to the talents of the three actors. Michael, Jones, and Gregory Diaz IV (New Amsterdam) have a wonderful chemistry, each filling an archetype. Michael’s Miguel is a responsible do-gooder who won’t let anyone fall between the cracks. Jones’ Bobby is a troubled tough kid with a heart of gold fighting against a reputation he can’t shake. And Diaz’s Luis is a hypochondriac nerd who offers his friends all the info they need to kill vampires (based mostly on repeated viewings of Blade). Together, their bond and petty grievances speak to a lifetime of friendship. It’s excellent work from a very young cast.
But this isn’t just a movie for kids. The film is a pretty direct metaphor for gentrification, with vampires representing real estate companies literally sucking the life out of a neighborhood by pricing lower income residents out of their homes. It’s played for laughs, but there’s some real bite to the film’s observations about gentrification. Rodriguez also peppers enough vampire references throughout to keep older moviegoers engaged. (I’ll get you started: Murnau Enterprises is a reference to Nosferatu director F.W. Murnau.) There’re also some great cameos from hip hop legends and A-list Marvel actors to keep adults focused.
If you’re looking for a movie that eases younger teens into the horror genre, Vampires vs The Bronx is an excellent choice. With language a little saltier than Hocus Pocus, but far fewer images of gore or intense scares than, say Halloween, this is a great middle ground movie to get you in the mood for the spooky season.
Vampires vs the Bronx is available on Netflix.
Good Family Horror * PG-13 * 85 mins.