Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.
‘Classic monster invades contemporary society’ is one of the oldest set-ups for horror, going all the way back to, well, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which played the duel between ‘rational’ Victorian society and an undead ghoul of ancient superstition for both screams and satire. Everyone who has since done a ‘What if Dracula came to modern times?’ riff has been following the same template that Stoker himself set down.
What changes is less the monster than what the monster represents.
For Stoker’s time, Dracula played on the fears that Englishmen had about the sudden interconnectivity of Europe and the attendant culture shock. How was polite, repressed British society to cope with an influx of Eastern Europeans with their strange ways buying up all the land, seducing all the women into their kinky harems, and spreading disease everywhere they went? (And if a modern reader senses Bram Stoker’s Irish tongue slipping into his cheek as he sold Brits their own nightmares back to them, well, it doesn’t detract from the terror of the tale.)
Vampires vs. the Bronx continues the stories tradition of pitting yesterday’s monsters against today’s culture, and correlates the soulless bloodsuckers with gentrification. The vampires here don’t just want to drain the blood out of the people of the Bronx, they want to drain away the Bronx itself, buying up property and mowing down everything unique and historical and lively about the area.
Standing in their way is a ragtag monster squad including Miguel (Jaden Michael), Bobby (Gerald W. Jones III), and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV). The three boys witness the supernatural attacks and go on the offensive, even as none of the adults understand or believe them (which, I mean…fair). With some home-made weapons, and a little help from watching Blade, these three are the only thing standing between the Bronx and annihilation.
Can these three boys rally the neighborhood to save the neighborhood? It’s the greatest grudge match in cinema history  and Two Cents plunked down to watch it play out.
Next Week’s Pick:
How much trouble can one loose buffalo cause?
In Jallikattu, Lijo Jose Pellissery’s masterpiece of tension and mayhem, the answer is lots. Lots and lots.
Jallikattu is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co anytime before midnight on Thursday!
Let’s be totally honest: Vampires vs. the Bronx has a very mash-up feel to it. I’ve been using “Salem’s Lot meets Attack the Block meets Fright Night meets The Lost Boys,” but despite the whole throw-it-in-a-blender aspect to Oz Rodriguez’s movie, I am here for all of it. When you reference Murnau and Polidori before the title card even hits, I will nerd the fuck out, thank you very much. It’s just fun in this effortless way that I really appreciate. The references are great if you get them, without being obnoxiously being over-the-top in terms of elbowing you in the ribs to make sure you see what’s being done (Ernest Cline), which is always greatly appreciated. It’s especially nice that the film is a tightly-wound narrative that, while it does lend the kids some background and color to their stories, sticks to the action and humor. I’ll definitely be giving this a multiple viewings, because I have this feeling that there’s a lot hidden in the background that I missed while I was cheering at bloodsuckers getting staked. Too bad it’s a Netflix exclusive, because a Blu-ray with behind-the-scenes stuff would definitely be a blast. (@nuthousepunks)
Brendan Agnew (The Norman Nerd):
“Fright Night meets Attack the Block” certainly sounds great as a concept, but not so foolproof that you couldn’t easily fuck it up. Luckily for Vampires vs. the Bronx, cleverly functional writing and ruthless economy are on hand to turn another swing at “classic vampire, modern world” and — combined with some cracking performances from its young cast — ably bring it home. I appreciate a “gateway horror” film that deals frankly with violence and death while still being fairly approachable for younger viewers, and if I’d seen this as the 13-year-old who’d only barely managed to convince a Blockbuster cashier to rent me Blade, it could have been my new favorite movie.
There’s nothing overly fancy going on here, but the film is smart enough to balance earning its genuine (if rarely surprising) dramatic beats with keeping the pace snappy during its svelte 85 minutes, all while never belaboring (but never shying away from) the central vampirism / gentrification metaphor. It’s like Vampires vs. the Bronx knows its older audience doesn’t want to see the measures they’ll recognize drawn out too long, so it hits those notes hard and then moves on, trusting the younger audience to keep up. This is aided by director Osmany Rodriguez showing some genuine chops for visual storytelling — whether it’s a quick insert of some cops joking around with a vampire familiar, or a wordless exchange about cell phones during church.
And then the film almost casually combines two subplots into a single pivotal exchange in Act 3 that also completes two separate character arcs, and the scene is like 90 seconds long. That’s the kind of talent you keep an eye on, and makes Vampires vs. the Bronx well worth a look. (@BLCAgnew)
The hardened horror fan in me wished for a little more oomph as the body count steadily grows, but Vampires vs. the Bronx isn’t made for hardened horror fans. This is a movie that proudly sets itself to be the first ‘real’ horror film that a younger viewer might watch before diving headfirst into the genre, and it succeeds admirably in that mission. If I’d seen this when I was 10 or 11, there’s no doubt it would have electrified me and sent me running to watch even more vampire flicks.
For its modest scope and scale, Vampires vs. the Bronx tells its story with a style and flare, with a surprisingly tight screenplay that weaves together a bunch of diffuse strands into a cohesive thematic whole. It’s helped tremendously by a very likable ensemble, beginning with the three leads who are an instantly lovable little crew of fearless vampire killers.
Smart, sweet, and very canny in the way it both embraces and tweaks monster mythology for a modern audience, Vampires vs. the Bronx will easily make a great seasonal treat whenever a spooky mood strikes. And any movie in which the kids learn about vampire-slaying by watching Blade is A-OK in my book. (@TheTrueBrendanF)
Vampires vs The Bronx isn’t the gnarliest horror movie, but that’s kind of the point — it hits a certain Amblinesque sweet spot for a fun and scary adventure which is especially appealing to burgeoning terrorhounds, with the kids vs monsters approach of Monster Squad, Silver Bullet, It, and The Deadly Spawn — but with one major change. Whereas those films are set rural or idyllic environments, often with a nostalgic flair, this take opts for one of the boroughs of New York City, where our young protagonists contend not only with vampires and the travails of growing up, but also with urban pressures like gangs and gentrification.
I did feel a palpable sense of disappointment that the priest character played by Method Man seemed to be strongly hinted for a bigger role in the third act (a secret vampire hunter who would take the boys under his wing, or something dope along those lines) and it just… didn’t play out that way at all. Feels like a missed opportunity. But in the spirit of judging a film by what it is rather than what it’s not — what it is, is really good.
Even though it’s a small touch, one of my favorite elements is the boys’ source of inspiration. A young Hellboy thrilled to the adventures of Lobster Johnson. Bruce Wayne loved Zorro and The Gray Ghost as a boy. But for these three vampire-hunting African-American boys, the hero of choice is clear —the Daywalker himself, Blade. (@VforVashaw)
Next week’s pick: