Netflix UK film review: Vampires vs the Bronx
Ivan Radford | On 13, Nov 2020
Director: Oz Rodriguez
Cast: Jaden Michael, Coco Jones, Joel Martinez, Gerald W Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV
Watch Vampires vs the Bronx online in the UK: Netflix UK
“White people with canvas bags. That’s always the first sign.” That’s Miguel (Jaden Michael) to his best friends, Bobby (Gerald W Jones III) and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV), while spreading word of a house party to save the local bodega. The threat putting it in danger? The gentrification of their New York neighbourhood, which is slowly stamping out the community. But we soon learn of another threat in the air: vampires.
That might not be much of a surprise to anyone watching a film called Vampires vs the Bronx, but it’s a surprisingly fresh take on the horror genre, using the fanged undead as a sharp, topical metaphor for the way that cities can suck the lives out of the people who have lived there for years. It’s a threat that’s all too real in cities around the world, as capitalist urban planning and real estate investment combine to push prices up and push smaller independent businesses down, while leaving those at the bottom of the economic ladder with little options to make ends meet.
Oz Rodriguez’s horror-comedy wastes no time in skewering its target within minutes of the opening credits. But his script, co-written with Blaise Hemingway, wears its point lightly on its sleeve, skewering its target while having a lot of fun at the same time. The result deftly spins tale of neighbours teaming up to defend their own, finding an uplifting sense of camaraderie in the face of homogeneity.
It’s only fitting, then, that we get a winning sense of characters from our lead figures, with Michael’s Miguel a standout as the determined young man who refuses not to be heard. He’s supported wonderfully by Joel Martinez as Tony, the owner of the Primo bodega – who keeps an eye on his CCTV footage, which exposes the reflection-less vampires for what they are.
Sarah Gadon has an equal amount of fun as Vivian, one of the lead vampires, who plays nice but is no less fierce than Shea Whigham as Frank Polidori, the real estate mogul who heads up the vampiric empire – called, brilliantly, Murnau Properties. “This place is a forgotten area. Every last one of you could disappear and nobody would notice,” he sneers at the kids, even as he professes to want to support the bodega and keep the local spirit alive.
The 86-minute runtime breezes through genre conventions without pausing for breath, but there are lots of little touches throughout that make this comedy warm as well as funny – the way that Tony is above all concerned for Miguel and his friends’ well-being, the way that local influencer Gloria unfailingly captures everything on her phone, the way communion wafers and holy water still have their uses, the person who’s been cast as the local priest, and the way that Miguel and friends get their vampire knowledge from the seminal, groundbreaking comic book horror classic Blade.
Vampires vs the Bronx is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.