Released: 2nd October
Seen: 6th October
I’ve said it before, I will probably say it again, Horror is one of the best ways to handle social commentary. It can be a subtle critique of consumerism, like in Dawn of the Dead, or it can be so gloriously blunt that the movie might as well just beat you with a hammer with the movie’s message attached, like in Get Out. It can be a great way to put an indescribable feeling into something that can be easily described and get that feeling across… or it can just take a real world scenario and have some fun with it.
Vampires vs. The Bronx is a fun and unsubtle dig at gentrification. Set in The Bronx it follows a trio of friends, Miguel (Jaden Michael), Bobby (Gerald Jones III) and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) who are working together to hold a fundraiser in order to save the local Bodega, which is at risk of closing due to a massive rent hike. While they’re going around town and hanging up fliers for their block party fundraiser they happen to keep noticing that building after building has been bought by the mysterious Murnau Enterprises… oh, and then there’s all the vampires, those are pretty hard to miss.
Using vampires as a metaphor for gentrification is a clever idea, one this film uses pretty well. The vampires are, quite literally, sucking this area dry of everything that makes it special and it really does help sell how strangely insidious it can feel to have a major company slowly buying up a working class neighbourhood. There’s also the other obvious metaphor that one might expect when a bunch of white vampires seem to be slowly taking over a black neighbourhood… just saying, it is not exactly subtle when a pretty blonde white woman is possibly the biggest danger to a bunch of young black men. Oh, also bonus points for naming the big company that the vampires use after the director of Nosferatu, one of those little references (in a film littered with them) that really was a nice touch.
Tonally the film is fairly consistent, it’s going for a family friendly comedy horror and it manages to stick there. There was never a moment that felt like they cut something out to appease the censors or make it more marketable (always a worry I have with American PG 13 horror films) but then that kind of leads me to wonder why I didn’t like this more than I do. It’s certainly nice, non-offensive, I’d dare say it’s a good way to introduce younger people to the horror genre but having watched it not too long ago I can’t say I remember any funny jokes or particularly good scares. I’m not even sure I can point to the type of comedy it’s meant to be, or is the entire joke “A bunch of kids fighting vampires” because that’s a joke that needs more if it’s going to last for 85 minutes.
What does help is that the performances are genuinely good, everyone in the cast seems to get the kind of film that they’re making and the performances suit the material, there’s no real standout but there’s also no one really holding back. There are no truly memorable characters, but I also ended up liking most of the people who I was meant to be rooting for even if they didn’t do anything particularly memorable. OK, maybe one kid feeding a vampire the eucharist and saying “body of Christ” before the vampire burst into dust was kinda memorable but that’s about it.
Vampires vs. The Bronx is basically a family’s first vampire movie and a decent way to poke some fun at gentrification. It’s fine for what it is, but it doesn’t exactly do much beyond that. I wish I liked this one a lot more than I do.