We have been asking for films centering young Latino kids, specifically Afro-Latinos, in TV & film stories for decades. In comes Vampires vs. The Bronx. The movie follows the rise of gentrification in the Bronx with nail shops being shut down and local eateries retired in exchange for a Butter Shop. Plus, the community center, called the Bodega, could soon join the ranks of closed businesses. In walks young activist and Bronx native Miguel Martinez (Jaden Michael).
Martinez notices and opposes all the new changes in the neighborhood but, most importantly, he wants to save his sanctuary, the Bodega. He loves the Bronx and is troubled by the sudden changes that the real estate company Murnau Properties is spearheading. No activist can roll solo, so he enlists his two best friends Bobby (Gerald Jones III) and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) for assistance. Their rescue is exasperated when Miguel notices that vampires are at the heart of the real estate buy-out problem.
Everything about Vampires vs. The Bronx is campy fun at its best. The intelligent basis for using gentrification as the catalyst is entertaining rather than off-putting. In a humorous but smart way, we see how it changes the flow of a community by erasing its flagships. Although Vampires vs the Bronx is labeled a horror film, this film isn’t frightening. It simply uses elements of horror to take us through the adventure.
One of the strong points of this movie is that it was made by someone who understands the community—more specifically, the Bronx and all of its gems. Director Osmany Rodrigues cast New York natives to tell this adventure. Nowhere is this more evident than the casting of The Kid Mero as Tony. I can hear Dominicans screaming “que lo que (KLK)” when he makes his first appearance. No one reps the BX harder than Mero. Rodrigues’ Saturday Night Live (SNL) connection is also clear in the casting of Chris Redd as Andre. Andre is one of the guys you always see in the neighborhood but aren’t quite sure of his stature.
What makes Vampires vs. The Bronx work is its lead, Jaden Michael. He’s a community activist who’s balancing the struggles of being a young tween. He wants to be cool, which is difficult when your mom is constantly telling you to clean your room but that balance is what makes him so relatable.
While everyone seems to accept the changes, Michael’s character Miguel is determined to stop his community from becoming another notch in the Starbucks empire. Viewers root for Miguel because he represents the inner child in all of us. It’s also impossible to not stress how seeing a young Afro-Latino centered in this adventure will help similar children know that they matter and are vital to the Latinx diaspora. The addition of Bobby and Luis, meanwhile, balances Miguel. Bobby is street smart while Luis is book smart. Their love of the Bodega, all things Blade The Movie and, naturally, the Bronx makes them a perfect trio to take on the vampires.
Another fun character is Gloria (Imani Lewis). Gloria’s the social media queen vlogging about the shenanigans going on in the hood. Meanwhile, Rita (Coco Jones) has the effective vampire hunting knowledge that the squad lacks due to her Haitian upbringing. Every crew needs a level headed member.
This movie may have vampires, but their appearance is meant to be more of an aversion than terrifying addition. Their pale, bony appearance reminds us more of Buffy the Vampire Killer than Underworld, but that’s part of the charm.
Nothing about this film is new, but what makes us want to participate in the journey are the kids. Vampires vs. The Bronx is a delightful film for the whole family to enjoy. That in itself is a gift during these challenging times.