Vampires vs. The Bronx is the first of several horror-centric titles set to hit Netflix during the month of October. Successfully tying-in with an upcoming holiday is often easier said than done though, as the streaming giant’s 2019 Halloween slate (Fractured and In the Tall Grass) failed to generate a positive impression. Thankfully, their latest horror venture unearths a promising debut from writer/director Osmany Rodriguez, delivering a spirited adventure that intelligently connects its thrills to our societal zeitgeist.
The film follows Miguel aka “Young Mayor” (Jaden Mitchell), Bobby (Gerald Jones III), and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV), a trio of precocious teens adamantly standing against the gentrification of their neighborhood. New tenets aren’t the only issue, as the three quickly realize their neighbors are blood-thirsty vampires.
Instead of fixating on superficial thrills, Rodriguez’s film aptly grounds itself in a sense of place. The opening act soundly establishes our characters and their beloved neighborhood with charm and style, whisking audiences into a lively place that sings with personality (including a few playoff homages to Spike Lee). Rodriguez’s script defines his world with a very genuine eye, drafting free-flowing conversations and witty banter that fly right off the page. It helps that the central stars, Mitchell, Jones III, and Diaz IV, make for a dynamic trio, with the young performers elevating what could be archetype roles (cameos by Method Mad and The Kid Mero are also quite fun).
As good horror should, Vampires vs. The Bronx reflects on societal dynamics. Instead of crafting a lengthy thesis on gentrification, Rodriguez addresses the systematic problem through the film’s playful humor. This approach feels tailor-made for the horror/comedy tonality, discarding a self-serious preachiness that plagues other entries in the genre. I also appreciate the finite tonal line Rodriguez totes, creating an approachable family horror film that still isn’t afraid to throw some dramatic stakes at its adolescent audiences.
There’s fun to be had with Vampires vs. The Bronx, though its pleasures are relatively slight. The narrative often feels bogged down by cliched plot beat, with the personable qualities Rodriguez imbues only covering so much ground. There are also some struggles when the film dances outside its core focus, with a B-plot involving the allures of gangster life lacking the dimension to register a strong impression.
When operating at its apex, Vampires vs. The Bronx thrives as an inspired remix of genre influences.
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