Every so often, horror can devolve into a joyless slog. The attitude of making horror depressing is far from new. After all, the violence required to create the scares and chills is rarely comforting. However, horror contains multitudes, and the 1980s thrived on adventure-based horror stories. From Fright Night to Gremlins, some stories toed the line of horror and comedy. Netflix‘s Vampires vs. the Bronx falls into this camp as a silly, but effective horror-comedy. Directed by Osmany Rodriguez, Vampires vs. the Bronx succeeds as a fun, teenager focused romp that undeniably evokes the feelings that made Goonies or Monster Squad all-time classics.
Vampires vs. the Bronx reimagines the dangers that vampires pose to a city or a neighborhood. Miguel Martinez (Jaden Michael) organizes a block party to save a local bodega. Tony (Kid Mero) gives Miguel and his friends, Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III), a place to hang out. However, people are going missing from the neighborhood. When Miguel sees a vampire (Adam David Thompson) chow down on a local, Miguel begins to rally his friends to his side. With Luis, Bobby, and Miguel’s crush Rita (Coco Jones) on the team, they begin taking down the monsters destroying the neighborhood.
Rodriguez and screenwriter Blaise Hemingway construct a story as a fun adventure tale, but layer in commentary impressively. The vampires are not simply killing people in the Bronx, but they gentrify the neighborhood in the process. Using Shea Whigham and other caucasian performers to buy off the neighborhood gives a real insight into the issues facing urban communities. It also allows the narrative to dip into the vibrant culture of the neighborhood. This adds heart to the story and stakes beyond the battle against evil.
The cast gets plenty of moments to shine, even though some bigger names find their way into the teen-centric story. The core group at the heart of the story each gets standout moments. Michael fits the leader of the group well, and you understand why people rally around him. Gerald Jones gets some of the best one-liners in the film and often steals entire scenes with humor alone. Both Coco Jones and Diaz deliver meaningful and fun dialogue. Once Coco Jones joins the team, the group really gets cooking.
Just as important are fun standouts from the community, especially the incredibly charming Kid Mero. The talk show host and podcaster dominates the screen with his comedic chops. He surprises as one of the most heartwarming performances, even as he gets laughs at every turn. Other actors get some great scenes, including SNL star Chris Redd, a surprise scene from Zoe Saldana, and Method Man taking on a man of faith. Jeremie Harris feels underutilized, but he commits to the role and shines regardless. Each turn builds a unique aspect of the world, which is needed to sell the film with its neighborhood focus.
At times, Vampires vs. the Bronx speeds through developments in the plot. Occasionally there are logic gaps, but it often does so to trim the fat off the film. The fast and fun editing ultimately keeps the action going, and this matters more than the small moments it skips over. Instead of dragged out emotional sequences, he gives the characters and humor rumor to breathe. It’s a wise choice to keep up the energy.
The horror elements of Vampires vs. the Bronx are quite tame compared to other vampire stories. The adventure and comedy often overtake the frights, making this a family-friendly option. It still earns a PG-13 rating, thanks to a fairly problematic depiction of gang violence. More violence and gun use enter the story through this subplot. It helps build the case about a changing neighborhood but does so with some frustrating stereotypes. This might be the largest detractor to the film because it feels out of sync with the film’s attitude.
Vampires vs. the Bronx makes for a marvelously fun adventure film for audiences to enjoy. Not only does it earn its laughs, but it leans into small homages that service the vampire subgenre. Never as crass as Monster Squad or Goonies, it still features some truly wonderful performances from both adult and teen cast. While it features some tamer sequences, this should become a staple of Halloween family viewing. The fun flick earns its charm at every turn.
ALAN FRENCH’S RATING FOR VAMPIRES VS. THE BRONX IS A 7 OUT OF 10