Julien Neaves – Editor
Ask me what my favourite vampire movie is. Go ahead. Ask me. Well it’s a tie between Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Lost Boys, and on the latter film I have seen a lot of love on my Facebook horror pages for the 1987 teen black comedy horror classic. While watching the new Netflix teen comedy horror Vampires vs. The Bronx (which I’ll just call VVTB from now on) I couldn’t help throwing my mind back to The Lost Boys, both for better and for worse.
VTTB, directed by Osmany Rodriguez who also co-wrote it with Blaise Hemingway, tells the story of a group of teenagers in the Bronx who discover a sinister plan by a group of vampires to invade their community. With a medium SPOILER ALERT let’s break it down in four bites:
Bite #1 – The Bronx Boys
If you’ve seen The Lost Boys (and if you haven’t I am automatically docking five friendship points) you will remember there were teenage boys going up against the titular vamps. VTTB has three teenage boys going up against their titular vamps. Here the boys are the socially conscious Miguel aka Lil Mayor (Jaden Michael), worry wart nerd Luis (Gregory Diaz IV), and boy-on-the-edge-of-joining-a-gang Bobby (Gerald W. Jones III). While Luis and Bobby are a bit generic I thought Miguel’s character was refreshingly unique. You rarely see an urban youth passionate about saving his community in movies. The performances by the three were all effectively done, and they hit both the comedic and dramatic beats. Coco Jones also brings some energy as the intelligent Rita but she is just a fourth wheel to the trio.
The rest of the cast are okay but don’t have that much to do. Comedian The Kid Mero is likeable as bodega owner and surrogate father Tony. There are also the recognisable faces of Zoe Saldana of a beauty shop owner, Method Man as a priest (I smile just thinking about this hilarious bit of casting), and comedian Chris Redd gets a chance to drop some cool one liners as a lay about. Part of this film’s genre description is comedy and VTTB mostly delivers in that respect, though it is no laugh-out-loud romp.
Bite #2 – A Bat Flies Into a Bar…
So I just talked about the human characters, what about the titular vampires? There’s not that much to say here. They are your prototypical Nosferatu-looking, snarling, face contorting, flying, blood sucking, not showing up in mirrors, garlic hating, holy water scorching, stale slaying, Buffy the Vampire Slayer-combusting vampires which we have seen a million times already. They add nothing to the vampire mythos and are content with recycling well-worn tropes. And you know in The Lost Boys there was a secret master they were trying to find? They do that here as well, but I called the person from the word go and I am sure most viewers will too.
I will give the film points for two vampire-related things though. One is that it shows a lot of love for the original Blade film, and I am usually in the minority in believing it is the superior and more enjoyable entry compared to still very good Blade 2 (we don’t talk about Blade: Trinity). And so I appreciated that, and it would make sense that a black and two Hispanic kids would look up to a black vampire slayer. Who else are they going to emulate? Buffy? Van Helsing? No. It’s the Daywalker all the way. And secondly I did like the set up of holy water boiling when the vampires are close as a type of early warning system. I have never seen that before (Sommer is the horror head so she will have to correct me) and it added a welcome visual aspect to the tension building.
Bite #3 – Not in Ma Hood
I will continue to give out some points with this next bite. Under the vampire hunting there is the central theme of class warfare. The boys’ community is being gentrified and due to poverty and crime the businesses and residents are packing up and moving out. The twist here is that it’s vampires buying up the properties and moving in. But there is a palpable pang in the loss of community, and sadly for Miguel he seems to be the only one noticing or caring.
And why would vampires want to move into The Bronx? Why not some impressive old castle in Romania or something? Well the vamps want to go somewhere where people won’t be missed much, making it easier for them to feed. There is a scene where the boys talk about a guy who got offed by a vampire. They say he will not be missed not because he’s a gangbanger (though that’s part of it) but because he’s from The Bronx like them. Now that is a deep, class and ethnic inequality/apathy discussion which one does not expect to find in a movie about kids fighting the undead with holy water in sofa bottles. Good stuff there.
Bite #4 – Die Suckhead Die!
Did you notice I didn’t mention The Lost Boys once in that last bite? You didn’t? Come on people, pay attention! But seriously there are scenes when the boys go after the vampire’s nest which is either a rip off or an homage to scenes in that film, though just not done as well. With all the Blade references they could have thrown in at least one The Lost Boys with how much they borrowed from the superior vampire horror comedy.
And while the film is a well-made production it is clear that money was saved on the vampire effects. You know how the vamp kills in The Lost Boys were (mostly) big, bloody and just freaking spectacular? In VVTB they are quite underwhelming. And you could literally count the number of vampires on one hand. The climax of the movie could have really benefited from a whole squad of bloodsuckers but ends up falling very flat. So I wanted to love this movie and hoped it would be for teen urban horror what Attack the Block was for teen urban Sci Fi. And while I liked the characters, social themes and the comedy, the movie is lifeless when it comes to scares and vampire action. Yeah, I know. Kinda sucks.
Julien’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
For Sommer’s list of the Top 5 Scariest Vampires From Around the World you can click here. And for more film reviews you can really sink your teeth into (you saw what I did there, and you liked it!) you can like and follow Redmangoreviews by clicking here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.