Written and directed by Oz Rodriguez, Vampires vs. the Bronx tackles the underdog story in a new way. While movies about vampires have been seen time and time again, this film shines the spotlight on a community of characters so often forgotten in mainstream media.
Miguel Martinez (Jaden Michael), affectionately known as Lil’ Mayor, is on a quest to save the local bodega owned by Tony (a hilarious performance by Joel “The Kid Mero” Martinez) by organizing a neighborhood block party. Self-appointed to save the Bronx from gentrification and real estate company Murnau Properties, named after Nosferatu director F.W. Murnau, Miguel soon realizes that the disappearing local businesses are a result of a much more sinister plot.
After witnessing a vampire attack on a resident of the neighborhood, Miguel realizes that Murnau isn’t simply a real estate company. It is, as the title suggests, a plan to literally suck the life out of an entire community and take it over. Miguel enlists the help of his friends Luis (Gregory Diaz), aptly described as “the Puerto Rican Harry Potter,” and Bobby (Gerald W. Jones III who brings a lot of vulnerability and heart with his storyline). As the adults in his life fall defeated to what they see as inevitable change, Miguel and his friends try to unravel the mystery of who’s taking over their neighborhood. Other stellar performances include Imani Lewis, Coco Jones, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, SNL’s Chris Redd, and Vladimir Caamaño.
This latest entry into the horror/comedy genre borrows some elements from other vampire fighting franchises, although a moment with garlic adobo is a type of specific comedy that’ll have you laughing out loud. The film takes to heart the job of personifying gentrification as the harmful, soul stealing thing it truly is. What particularly stands out is how painful it is to hear how often the Murnau vampires emphasize that no one will care about people from the Bronx disappearing. It’s even called a “shit hole” during one pivotal scene, the metaphor making itself perfectly clear.
White people coming into black and brown neighborhoods, making people disappear and taking over, Vampires vs. the Bronx tells you exactly how it feels about gentrifiers. What this movie leaves you feeling, however, is that there is power in community and that the voices and stories of people of color matter and should be heard, no matter how hard others try to silence them. This is exactly what Rodriguez does with his almost entirely black and Latinx cast. They are not subjected to the role of the side kick or best friend. They get to be the heroes of their own stories and are literally saving the world, at least their little corner of the world.
Vampires vs. the Bronx is streaming on Netflix now.