Director Osmany Rodriguez is something of a Saturday Night Live veteran, and it shows in Vampires vs the Bronx. As a director of Saturday Night Live, which is a late-night television sketch comedy show, putting together a series of short and sometimes hilarious segments is his forte.
This satirical comedy horror film is funny, witty, and is also 15 minutes too long at its already short runtime of 86 minutes. Written by Osmany Rodriguez and Blaise Hemingway, the film runs out of ideas at the end and makes contrived attempts to connect the entire story. Not only does the last bit of Vampires vs the Bronx seem rushed, but it also seems to be running on fumes. The special effects involving the supernatural elements appear strictly B-movie, and not purposefully so — it’s clear that the crew simply ran out of money.
It’s a shame that this Netflix release doesn’t have a bigger budget, because despite the shortcomings, Vampires vs the Bronx is worth a watch. In it, a group of teenagers from the Bronx, including Miguel Martinez (Jaden Michael), Bobby Carter (Gerald W. Jones III), and Luis Acosta (Gregory Diaz IV), notices a group of vampires taking over the neighbourhood while hiding behind a real estate development company. It’s obvious that they’re vampires, but the adults either don’t seem to notice or just go along with it for personal gain.
It’s not a coincidence that the vampires are all white and the kids are all black and brown. After all, the film is a satirical take on gentrification, which if you’re unfamiliar, is a real-world problem faced by multiple urban communities across the world. In the United States, people of colour living in areas such as the Bronx are displaced as wealthier people, usually white, move in with huge sums of money to modernise the neighbourhoods. As the areas get modernised, they become too expensive for lower-income families and local businesses to survive. For example, mom and pop stores may make way for expensive department stores.
Vampires vs the Bronx is a clever, if a little heavy-handed, portrayal of the gentrification process
Vampires vs the Bronx is a clever, if a little heavy-handed, portrayal of the gentrification process. For example, statistics show that the gentrification process usually reduces crime. In Vampires vs the Bronx, the vampires violently kill criminals one by one. When Miguel brings this to everyone’s attention, they don’t listen to him, perhaps because they don’t want to.
The only two people who pay attention to Miguel’s concerns are his buddies Bobby and Luis. The kids arm themselves with traditional vampire-fighting weapons such as crosses and garlic, and hilarity ensues as they fight off the vampires with many funny references to the genre.
Admittedly, Vampires vs the Bronx gets a bit ham-fisted in its message delivery. For example, the vampires often express their disdain for the neighbourhood. They feel that it has no value and that its residents don’t care about it anyway. Perhaps the film feels that its comfortably privileged viewers need a kick in the rear to understand its message.
While Vampires vs the Bronx won’t win any awards, it’s certainly one of the most pleasant cinematic surprises of the year. I look forward to seeing what Osmany Rodriguez can do with more resources.
Rated PG-13 for language, violence and some suggestive references
Published in Dawn, ICON, October 25th, 2020