It’s hard to imagine a better time for a teen movie about three friends fighting to save their community to be released. The Netflix Original, Vampires vs. The Bronx, directed by Osmany “Oz” Rodriguez, is an entertaining adventure/horror-comedy that focuses on a neighborhood at risk of gentrification.
As if skyrocketing rents and bougie hipster businesses weren’t bad enough, the real estate company responsible for the “revitalization” appears to be run by vampires. Vampires vs. The Bronx is an enjoyable family-friendly adventure in the spirit of some old school flicks like The Goonies, Blade, and a little bit of The Lost Boys.
The premise is simple: three friends Miguel (Jaden Michael), Luis (Gregory Diaz IV), and Bobby (Gerald Jones III) are trying to raise money to save their favorite hangout, Tony’s Bodega, from going out of business due to massive rent increases. Tony (Joel “The Kid Nero” Martinez) is a funny, caring, and loyal mentor for three boys that see him as the only positive male role model in their lives.
Along the way, they notice all the properties are being bought by Murnau Properties, which also seems to be making people disappear with each acquisition. The adults seem fine just accepting both the disappearances and the acquisitions, but the boys refuse to give up so easily.
Miguel (who looks like a younger version of Wes Gibbons from How To Get Away With Murder) is an extremely passionate young entrepreneur who rides his bike all over the Bronx to hang promotional posters for a block party to raise money for the bodega. One of his buddies is the stressed-out, type-A vampire expert, Luis. Luis is back visiting the Bronx after his family moved to Tampa a few months ago. Despite his nervous tics, he is fiercely loyal and unafraid to fight for those he cares about.
Finally, we have my favorite character, Bobby. While all three are fantastic, Bobby was the most interesting character because he was the one character struggling with an identity crisis. Miguel and Luis owned their nerdiness and unique personalities. Bobby, on the other hand, seemed to have no idea who he was or what he stood for. Having recently got expelled from school for fighting, Bobby flirts with the idea of becoming a drug-runner for a hustler named Henny (Jeremie Harris). Bobby, like the others, is not only at risk of losing his community, but he’s also the most at risk of losing himself.
As a result, Bobby is desperate for guidance but doesn’t know who to turn to. He certainly can’t turn to Father Jackson (Method Man). Not only is he the one who just expelled Bobby from school, but every time he sees Miguel and Luis hanging out with Bobby, he has to throw a jab or two Bobby’s way. Despite having noble intentions, when Father Jackson treats Bobby like a criminal instead of the angry and confused young man who’s clearly in a great deal of pain, he ends up pushing Bobby toward a life of crime rather than away from it.
Even Bobby’s loving mother Gladys (Heather Simms) can’t help projecting her greatest fear onto her son by repeating, “You are going to end up just like your father,” several times throughout the movie. Again, his mother clearly loves him, but trying to raise him by herself is no easy task and she is clearly at her wit’s end. All this pain, confusion, and desperation plays a major role in Bobby’s development throughout the movie.
Rounding out the crew Miguel’s slightly older crush, Rita (Coco Jones). Rita is the only person who believes the boys when they tell her there are vampires trying to take over the Bronx. When she offers to help, the boys are reluctant, but once they hear how much she knows about vampires, they know they need her to have any chance of killing the “suckheads”. Her knowledge and fearlessness stem from her Haitian grandmother, who as Rita tells it, “Has been preparing me for this my entire life.” Rita ads confidence and poise that helps ground the group as the four of them fight to save the Bronx.
Despite being such a likable group, Miguel’s crew has their work cut out for them. For one, none of the adults believe vampires are real. Secondly, the vampires are vicious. Far from the sparkly human-loving vampires of the mid-2000s, these vampires are like the apex predators from the 80s. They look a little like the vampires from Underworld and The Lost Boys, they are fast, powerful, hungry, and have absolutely no problem going after kids.
The kids, however, won’t go down without a fight. In order to prepare, they turn to the greatest urban vampire slayer of all-time, Blade. After their brief history lesson, they jump into my favorite scene from most teen monster movies: prepping for battle. In the spirit of a training montage, I love the clever ways they arm themselves to fight, which when facing vampires includes the risky chore of stealing holy water. While the concept is nothing new, this particular task was very enjoyable for me, if for no other reason than I can’t help but laugh at the idea of Method Man as a priest.
Having grown up listening to his music and watched the movie How High, which he starred in along with Redman, an embarrassing number of times, it was great seeing him all grown up as a man of the cloth. Keeping some spoilers close to he chest, does Father Jackson survive to the end or will Method Man prove to be the exception, not the rule when it comes to rappers surviving a horror movie?
When all is said and done, I would have loved to have seen this movie ramped up a few notches, but also appreciate that they kept things tame for their intended audience of young people. While Vampires vs. The Bronx lands much more on the adventure-comedy end of the scare-spectrum, there are still a few scares that may work for a younger audience.
In addition to tame horror, outside of a few minor curse words, and one purposeful “f-bomb”, the film is a mild-mannered and conservative PG-13. In fact, the film aligns very closely with the 1987 teen monster flick, The Monster Squad. So, if you are looking for a funny, entertaining, and heartfelt movie to enjoy with the whole family this Halloween season, then Vampires vs, The Bronx is a perfect choice.
Kyle Feuerbach is a high school teacher with a passion for horror books and movies. When he is not teaching, running a fitness business with his wife, or spending time with his son, he is likely reading, writing, or repairing manual typewriters.