“Vampire vs. the Bronx”, which was released on Netflix in last week, is as silly and funny as suggested by its very title. While reminiscent of many different vampire horror films ranging from TV miniseries “Salem’s Lot” (1979) to “Fright Night” (1985), the movie also has considerable spirit and personality in addition to some spooky moments, and that is more than enough to compensate for its several weak aspects.
During the opening part, we are introduced to Miguel (Jaden Michael), Bobby (Gerald W. Jones III), and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV), three young boys living in a neighborhood area of Bronx in New York City. Whenever they are free after their school time, these three boys spend time together at a local bodega owned by an avuncular guy named Tony (The Kid Mero), but their neighborhood has been gentrified day by day due to the relentless advance of some big real estate company, and it seems Tony’s bodega will be soon gone just like many other familiar shops and stores in their neighborhood.
Although Tony is not so willing to sell his bodega at present, Miguel and his two friends cannot help but feel worried as watching their neighborhood being changed more and more. That is why they decided to try an outdoor party which may give some financial support to the maintenance of Tony’s bodega, but, not so surprisingly, they do not get much support from their neighbors or their parents, and they become more frustrated and disappointed as the date of their outdoor party is coming.
Nevertheless, Miguel keeps trying along with his two friends. Although jokingly called “Lil’ Mayor” by his neighbors, he continues to spread the promotional leaflets of the outdoor party as usual, but then he comes to witness something quite disturbing at one night. When he is hiding from one of the local street gang members shortly after one unfortunate incident, a mysterious figure suddenly appears from nowhere, and then he witnesses that figure question in question attacking and then sucking blood from that thug.
When Miguel subsequently tells Bobby and Luis about what he saw, Bobby and Luis are naturally skeptical about that, but it does not take much time for them to believe their friend’s story as they and Miguel come to sense something sinister from that big real estate company which keeps buying one place after another in their neighborhood as before. After all, the name of the company is Murnau Enterprises, and that will surely amuse you a lot if you have ever watched a certain classic silent film directed by F.W. Murnau.
Once our three young heroes become quite convinced that their neighborhood is being threatened by vampires who are behind the ongoing gentrification process as well as numerous local cases of missing, the screenplay by director Osmany Rodriguez and his co-writer Blaise Hemingway goes through a series of genre conventions along with them as expected. Fortunately, Luis happens to know several things about vampires as reflected by one brief scene early in the film, so he tells Miguel and Bobby a bit about how to kill vampires, and they also watch “Blade” (1998) together for getting more knowledge.
After some obligatory preparation, Miguel and his two friends begin to delve further into their urgent matter, and we are accordingly served with a creepy sequence where they go inside one of the spots which are recently purchased by Murnau Enterprises. I must say that the vampires in the film are not particularly scary, but they are presented with enough menace and malice at least, and the movie never lets us forget what is being at stake for its young heroes.
Of course, the adult characters in the story do not believe at all what Miguel and his two friends saw, and Miguel and his two friends come to have doubt on not only themselves but also their friendship. In case of Bobby, he subsequently lets himself get associated with those local gang members, and that consequently puts himself into a very tricky situation later in the story.
Anyway, our three young heroes eventually come to stick together again for stopping their supernatural opponents (Is this a spoiler?), and they also get some unexpected help from Rita (Coco Jones), a local teenage girl who turns out to be quite knowledgeable about vampires. Although the expected climax is rather modest on the whole, the movie does not lose any of its humor and energy even during that part, and it makes a good point on how resilient a community can be as defending its cultural identity.
Besides effectively establishing an authentic sense of people and locations on the screen, Rodriguez also draws good performances from his performers. Jaden Michael, Gregory Diaz IV, and Gerald W. Jones III are effortless in their natural rapport, and a bunch of distinctive performers including Sarah Gordon, Coco Jone, The Kid Mero, Shea Whigham, Method Man, and Zoe Saldaña fill their respective small spots as demanded, though, in my humble opinion, the movie could utilize them more considering their variously colorful characters.
In conclusion, “Vampire vs. the Bronx” does not break any new ground in its genre territories, but it does its job as well as intended after doing enough homework in advance. Yes, the overall result is rather a mild stuff for the upcoming Halloween season, but it is equipped with enough mood and personality at least, so I will not grumble for now.