Thursday, October 8, 2020


Finally, a vampire movie that knows Dracula is a novel about real estate. In Vampires vs. the Bronx, a compact little teen-friendly horror movie from sitcom alum Oz Rodriguez, vampires are real and they’re gentrifiers. As a trio of young teens bike around drumming up support for a block party to save their local bodega, dark-suited investors swoop in to buy out local buildings at top dollar. If the proprietors promptly go missing, well, that’s just a sad coincidence. Besides, maybe they’ve just up and gotten themselves absorbed into the suburbs. The film has a scrappy underdog appeal, as the kids are hardly believed, and thus must sneak around and gather evidence or, if comes to worst, fight off the evil themselves. The central trio is well cast and appealing, with Jaden Michael (Wonderstruck), Gerald Jones III, and Gregory Diaz IV playing both believable blustering bravado and in-over-their-heads young-as-their-years sympathy. They have a sense of righteous indignation to save their neighborhood, whether it be from bloodsuckers of an economic or literal sense. They’re surrounded by a cast of memorable faces—a little bit Do the Right Thing in its panoramic portrait of a neighborhood’s regulars filled out with authentic unknowns and well-chosen recognizable performers like Zoe Saldana, Method Man, and Chris Redd. But, like Joe Cornish’s terrific public-housing vs. space-invaders picture Attack the Block, the political point in this movie is wedded to a style of pure genre, lightness and heaviness held in fine proportion. The movie is a low-key charmer, and an exercise in unfussy tropes and tricks. The thing just plain works. The sleek scope frame pulsing with the rack focus and deep shadows, the crackling lights, squirmy effects, and slick asphalt play up the very real danger of the supernatural forces swirling in business suits. As villains, Sarah Gadon and Shea Whigham are two perfectly pale character performances, blonde and white and gliding, sticking out but without raising suspicions in this neighborhood as they play like one kind of villain to hide the deeper, darker evil they really are. After all, the locals are already plenty suspicious without having to add the vampiric truth. When one of the boys tries to warn his mom away from taking a meeting at the developers’ office, shouting that he’s a bad man, she wryly replies: “Of course he is; he’s in real estate.”

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