- Charnstar Anderson
Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)
Four days is all it took.
In four days, the trailer for Vampires vs the Bronx (2020) was released, and I went from “Oh my God, I need this in my life right now,” to seeing it and thinking, “God, what a disappointment”.
Don’t get me wrong, disappointment is a common occurrence. Remember that time The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) was announced back in 2018 and then my last review happened?
But four days? Damn, that’s fast.
So let’s start with the potential: what a great freaking idea! Representing gentrification of lower socio-economic areas via vampires? It’s almost too obvious! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s the sort of concept that writes itself. You can’t really be subtle about it, but if you’re too obvious about it, you could totally ruin the nuance of it.
Like mentioning it in every Goddamn scene.
Every scene with a vampire.
Every scene without a vampire.
Just bludgeoning you over the head with it.
There’s a twist where a character that seems to be a part of the gentrification trend, but not specifically the vampires, turns out to be a vampire, and it’s so close to being clever! ...Except it happens forty minutes into the movie, so it isn’t really a twist at all.
Then there’s the comparison between the gangbangers and the vampires, which once again, is SO close to being clever, except it totally misses the mark. The vampires JUST hired the gangbangers to doing a little bit of dirty work for them; they’re meant to be the last piece of the vampires' plan to buy out the area...except the vampires kill them two minutes later because… reasons?
Pictured: White people.
None of the themes are ever actively explored in the story, they're just spoken by characters (especially when they’re conveniently livestreaming to an online audience and dumping all of the exposition ever). I wouldn’t be so upset if they weren’t such good ideas, so poorly executed. With just a little more finesse and a little less obviousness, this alone could have been a saving grace of the film.
The director, Oz Rodriguez, clearly had some great ideas, but who knows, maybe they just hired the wrong screenwriter to work with him? Speaking of...
From the writer that brought you Uglydolls (2019) and Playmobil: The Movie (2019) comes a movie that I was not surprised came from the writer of Uglydolls (2019) and Playmobil: The Movie (2019).
I feel like that was mean. You gotta pay the bills - I get that! I would write a million bland kids movies if it meant I could make a classic kids vs vampires movie! But the overriding theme here is “bland”. And Vampires vs the Bronx (2020) is noticeably bland.
Once again, such a great idea, that is only upsetting because of how poorly it’s handled. Like, there are basic story elements that don’t work. The third act set up and pay off is really clearly set up: Miguel is throwing a block party to save the neighbourhood! It’s how we meet our main character. He’s throwing a block party to save the neighbourhood! Several characters tell you how he’s throwing a block party to save the neighbourhood! Instantly, I get it, at the end, the block party is gonna get the entire neighbourhood together and that’s where the final showdown is!
Except it isn’t. Well it is. But not really.
The vampires are going to attack the block party! We need to go to the block party, and warn everyone! Awesome! Fun! Except they don’t, and the vampires are just upstairs, so let’s make the girl (the only character who seems actively competent) go and warn everyone at the block party, while we stay here and fight. They manage to kill each vampire off in a way that begs the question as to how they were a threat to begin with, only to end up with just one in a random back alley that literally no one could have known about. Then the neighbourhood appears and proceed to do… not much… until Miguel rides in on his bike and jousts her to death with a sharpened baseball bat.
Pictured: Spoiler alert, the Block Party does happen AFTER they save the neighbourhood... so it meant nothing...
It’s like they tried to subvert your expectations, but not enough to make it exciting, just enough to make it completely unsatisfying.
Why did he joust her? I have no idea! I’ve been running through the movie, going back and forth to figure out where the hell that came from. It was cool, sure, but it’s such a specific thing that it needs to be set up to be wholly satisfying. There’s a scene early on, when, in reference to said baseball bat, the owner says, “Would you ask King Arthur to sell his sword?”… So here’s my thinking: King Arthur was a knight, right? Knights joust? There’s a game called Joust where there’s a character that’s way overpowered called King Arthur. Is that the connection? They know you don’t joust with swords, right?
Screenwriting 101. Set up and pay off.
Like I say, everything is so close to being good, but they miss it by an inch, which makes it ten times worse than just being bad.
This is probably the best part of the film, though that’s not really saying much.
It’s obviously trying to harken back to 80s classics like The Lost Boys (1987) and Fright Night (1985) with certain aesthetic choices, but still being firmly set in the Bronx, which almost works. Honestly, the day scenes are all shot so stock standard, that when the nights become more stylised, it feels awkward and disjointed.
Pictured: 10/10 for title screen and font though.
The vampire make-up and effects are mostly practical or at the very least, a blend. They’re not bad, but they don’t really stand out either. The editing is clearly utilised to accommodate for certain budgetary constraints; if I can forgive Vampire Dad (2020) and Two Heads Creek (2019) for that flaw though, I can forgive Vampires vs the Bronx (2020) as well.
The actors were all pretty good, especially seeming it’s mostly child actors. Method Man plays a priest, and I don’t know whether I would call it good acting or just Method Man as a priest, but I liked it.
Pictured: Can't even make fun of this. It was just cool.
Looking it up now, it was shot on anamorphic lenses. Which makes me surprised it didn’t look more impressive. Not bad, just underwhelming.
You kill Zoe Saldana in the first scene?! You can’t just open a movie with Zoe Saldana and then NEVER bring her back! Boo! Boo, movie! Boo!
Look, at the very least, I expected the movie to be fun. The kids vs vampires movie trend was short lived, but hella fun!
That’s probably the biggest crime of this movie. It’s underwhelming in all senses, but particularly, how fun it is. There’s a bit where they get garlic powder, but they have access to real garlic, so the joke is kind of moot? And then, they just throw it in a vampire's face and run away.
I mean come on, I’ve written a vampire script, and playing around with the lore is the fun part! The whole tension in my short vampire script is about garlic bread. It’s a simple joke, but at least it’s something. Then someone throws a bowl of garlicy pasta. Garlic is the one piece of lore that you can have the most fun with, and I thought the garlic powder gag was gonna be more but it’s just… nah, here’s garlic powder… cool…
They establish that holy water bubbles when vampires are near, and then they put holy water into Sprite bottles… and do nothing with it! It’s bubbly! Sprite is bubbly! There’s a joke there, do something with it!
They stake a vampire with a broken skateboard... dunno why... they just do...
Once again, it subverts your expectations by disappointing you in every possible facet.
Screenwriting 201. Chekhov's Saldana: if you introduce Zoe Saldana in the first act, you better not kill her straight away because we're all just gonna want more Zoe Saldana!
AND KILLING ZOE SALDANA IN THE FIRST SCENE! BOOO!