Yes, VAMPIRES VS. THE BRONX is a real Netflix original movie, but no, the movie isn’t as fun and schlocky as it sounds, and that is part of its problem. With a title like this one, or Snakes On A Plane, or Sharknado, you either go full fun, non-scary, dumb yet entertaining schlock, or you go home. This movie tries to be too The Lost Boys or Blade, and in doing so, doesn’t even get close to replicating their classic magic, and so this films title doesn’t live up to what is seemingly promised. This movie is too tonally in the middle of all those movies I just mentioned, which in turn makes it a cookie cutter, run of the mill, PG-13, bloodless, ho-hum, lame, by the numbers, assembly line product you’ve already seen and rejected before. I should’ve expected it though. The marketing for it, which little there was, only started the week before this film premiered, the trailer was bland, and the poster for it is one of the worst photo shopped shitty pieces of art that I’ve ever seen in my life. However, after watching the whole thing, it is not one of the worst films of the year. It’s just…there…and in about a week will be lost with all the other standard stuff that Netflix keeps rolling out each and every week. It’s frustrating because this film does show a lot of promise as I laughed out loud at some of the jokes, the film even has some familiar faces in it and everybody involved seemed like they wanted to be there. But it didn’t go where it needed to go to be a memorable schlocky romp that I was hoping it was going to be. It’s as if you opened up a coffin in a scary castle, saw the most vicious looking vampire you have ever seen in your life and they suddenly open their eyes. Yet it somehow isn’t intimidating to you, so you yawn, close the coffin, walk away and the son of a bitch doesn’t even have the audacity to try and chase you down and drink your blood.
Per IMDB, it describes this movie as: “A group of young friends from the Bronx fight to save their neighborhood from gentrification…and vampires.” It’s a simple description, yet reading between the lines it teases something that could be quite special. I was expecting it say something about race, gentrification, and middle-class. In a nutshell, I was expecting it to poke fun at white people. I mean, not that this really is a spoiler, but the heroes and good guys in this are African-American kids, their parents, and the community around them…and the vampires are all white for goodness sake. Surely the film would play with that and say several somethings about that scenario to its advantage, but other than one gangster pulling out a gun and calling one of the vampire’s ‘Hamilton’ because of its git-up, there are no really no other solid or smart jokes that cater to what the film might be trying to get at. In the end, there wasn’t enough tonal focus for me to even say with any complete confidence if the film even truly had a message buried deep down inside it, because it was all over the place tonally. There is a small fun scene, that only lasts less than 20 seconds, of our heroes stocking up on vampire hunting gear that was interesting, such as filling water balloons with holy water, but that kind of goofy fun (it reminded me of writer/director Edgar Wright and his ‘getting ready close up quick shots’) was short lived nor was it done as often as it should have. And there is only one funny vampire kill. That just cannot be in a film titled Vampires Vs. The Bronx. Not to mention all the kills are bloodless, off camera, and if a vampire does get killed we get that shitty disintegrating CGI that makes Blade’s seem as though it should’ve been nominated for an Oscar in special effects.
I hardly blame the direction, it’s completely the screenplay. The movie looks and feels like a movie, as director Osmany Rodriguez keeps shots somewhat dark in tone, and even in the daylight there was a gritty feel to the cinematography. I kind of dug the look of everything. The screenplay is co-written by him, but the other writer is a white guy. Remember how some of you felt that Antebellum or Green Book was inauthentic because a writer/co-writer/director was white? Same thing here, and I think that this Blaise Hemingway…who co-wrote Uglydolls and the awful Playmobile: The Movie mind you, should’ve taken a story by credit and handed the script fully to Osmany or another writer for a full rewrite. The familiar faces, Sarah Gadon, Shea Whigham, Method Man, and a glorified cameo from Zoe Saldana, look like they are having fun and want to be there, and the 4 hero kids definitely look like they want to be there and are having fun, but the final product doesn’t match their enthusiasm. The vampires come off as really stupid, and not in a fun, smart and jokingly way either. The action is tepid, there are no scares, tension, or any build up, and there is definitely not that much character development. I would even go to say that there were way too many characters for that given that it clocks in at only an hour and 25 minutes. Not really any plot arcs for any of them other than them telling the adults “told you so.” This film should’ve been about half an hour longer and taken its time getting to its revelations. The kids find out about the vampires not more than 15 minutes into this. In the end though, the most offensive thing about this movie is it’s title. It should’ve been titled something such as Bronx Nights or Blood Of The Bronx or it could have even sort of stolen Wes Craven’s shitty, mid-90s Eddie Murphy film and have it be called Vampires In The Bronx. Sorry, this movie does not earn the v or the s.