Vampires vs. the Bronx: Sucking Humor Out of the Vampires

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Source: Netflix

Vampires vs. the Bronx breaks up the blood-sucking creatures from their usual action-horror treatment — a formula that has been terrorizing and wearing-down cinema-goers for ages since the day Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld started shapeshifting into an eternal franchise. Lucky for (most of) us, the franchise seems to be undergoing a prolonged hibernation right now, perhaps after fans complained that they couldn’t tell the difference between the last installment’s villain and Hulk. Coupled with the Halloween season that we are in, is there any better way for us to revisit these blood-suckers in film, other than embarking in a goofy adventure such as Vampires vs. the Bronx?

The Netflix horror-comedy might have not been privileged enough to get a proper buzz prior to its release, but that is also one of the nice things about this film—you don’t have to overthink in advance about it. You can virtually check-in to the Bronx empty-handed and have a blast.

The Oz Rodrigeuz-directed film promises to go after your funny bones utilizing the rebellious and silly antics of three teenage kids—Miguel (Jaden Michael), Bobby (Gerald W. Jones III) and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) — who kind of feel that their lives suck before having to actually deal with invading blood-suckers in their neighborhood. Elsewhere, Sarah Gadon plays Vivian, an out-of-place newcomer of the Bronx, and Zoe Saldana cameos as a quick-’n-light vampire meal that gets digested five minutes into the film.

The film launches the unlikely trio into the guardianship of the Bronx via a casual plot. The premise is simple—Miguel trying to save a local bodega which he is so attached to, because bodega-owner, Tony (The Kid Mero) is probably the coolest and nicest guy you could ever come across in the Bronx. And when vampires mysteriously appear within the neighborhood, the kids tap into their self-learned knowledge and attempt to drive out those suckers for good.

There is literally nothing pretentious about the storyline. It is not even sneaky, at least not where it isn’t necessarily so. Occasionally, the plot does take a few jabs at racism and the context of the rich and powerful versus the poor and underprivileged, but they are done so nonchalantly that they feel light and cheeky. Granted, there are a couple of twists here and there, but more often than not, you would have seen them coming, and would not mind them at all because they are all nice-to-haves.

Whenever the film is not firing shots at what’s culturally wrong with the Bronx, it resorts to firing shots at another target — itself. I have to tell you beforehand, that in some scenes, the effects are inherently bad that it borders on being laughable, which is not a bad thing at all. I suspect that they are intentionally done that way. It’s like killing two vampires with a single stake, because apart from being something that delivers extra comedy material to the audience, it also helps the studio to save costs. You really can’t fault Rodriguez for choosing this path.

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Source: Netflix

The better news is, not much CGI trickery is deployed, because minus a few occasions where they need to show a disintegrating vampire, CGI is not much needed in Vampires vs. the Bronx. Of course, the make-up and costumes used to create the vampires are not on the same level as blockbusters, but they are fine as they are for the context of the film. Those who are lamenting the low-budget execution are perhaps barking at the wrong coffin.

If I have to rate the horror and comedy aspect of Vampires vs. the Bronx on a scale of 1–5, it would be 5 for comedy, and 1 for horror. You really can’t count on the vampires in the movie to give you a good jolt or to frighten you, because most of the time they will be busy giving you chuckles. On the contrary, you can firmly rely on the downplayed blood-suckers, plot twists and impeccable comic timing to explode with laughter.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is that there is plenty of dumbness cranked in, and it is neither afraid to parade around as one nor making attempts to outsmart the audience. Yes, those three kids will come up with their own interpretation of anti-vampire weapons, but the plot has no intention at all to swaddle them in any kind of superheroic vibe. It is just three teenage kids gambling with the odds. And the odds will always turn out funny no matter what.

The beauty of films like this is that Rodriguez does not need Oscar-winners within the cast line-up in order to make it work. Theoretically, he simply needs to assign individual characters to the boys — the misguided, the gutsy, and the physically-inept — and be sure that they perform in-line with their assigned frameworks, and voila, Vampires vs the Bronx. The same applies to other characters, and except for The Kid Mero’s Tony which shines a tad more than others, I found none of them to be utterly out of place. Save for Zoe Saldana the vampire food.

Vampires vs. the Bronx is an all-out comedic assault on vampires, and to a larger extent, the movie itself. Oz Rodriguez’s comedy vampire flick is more than happy to be self-derogatory, and by finding joy in what they do best, an unpretentious and thoroughly hilarious movie is born. With a simple premise and naive antics, Vampires vs. the Bronx offers a quick, painless and fun experience, though if I have to be super-nitpicky, they can use some extra ‘Bronx power’ within the climax The Film Addict

Originally published at https://www.thefilmaddict.com on October 6, 2020.

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