A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Vampires vs. the Bronx is a fun teen adventure movie about some smart kids in the New York City borough who figure out local gentrification is being spearheaded by a group of vampires looking for a permanent new HQ. The language is mature, but the appeal is purely to tweens and teens, with an emphasis on adolescent heroes and some outlandish scares. Growling vampires fly through the air and bare their teeth, then lunge for the kill. Gang members shoot at vampires. The vampires fall and then rise up and kill the gangsters. A bodega owner is killed by a vampire. A vampire representative hires a gang to rob local stores to encourage them to sell to the vampires and leave the neighborhood. Crucifixes, Eucharist wafers, holy water, and sharpened wood stakes are used to vanquish the vampires. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "suckhead," "damn, "hell," and "piss."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
VAMPIRES VS. THE BRONX is a literal sci-fi scare-fest but also a metaphor for what's happening in poor, urban neighborhoods where real estate speculators buy rundown properties from local owners, renovate, and displace poor people who can no longer afford to live in their own homes. Miguel (Jaden Michael), known in his Bronx neighborhood as "Lil Mayor," is organizing a block party to raise money to keep the neighborhood in local hands. A development company called Murnau is buying up properties and upgrading them with cutesy-named coffee houses and flavored butter emporia, designed to attract wealthy renters and buyers. Murnau uses scare tactics to get people to move. Miguel investigates and discovers Murnau is a front for a group of vampires exploiting the community, betting that no one will care if a bunch of "poor" people disappear. He has trouble persuading anyone that vampires are invading, but when their images don't show up in mirrors or on videos, his friends unite to defeat the blood-thirsty crew.
Is it any good?
Those who enjoy supernatural and adventure movies will find The Vampires vs. the Bronx clever and engaging. Like Jordan Peele in his Get Out and Us, director Osmany Rodriguez makes the irrefutable point that the experience of being a minority in America can feel like living in a horror movie. Inexplicable, illogical, terrible things happen. The added plus is that Rodriguez makes the argument that developers who renovate neighborhoods that become too expensive for the original inhabitants leech off the woes of the poor. Leeches vs. the Bronx just wouldn't have been as colorful a movie.
Note that the "bloodsucking" real estate firm is called Murnau after F.W. Murnau, the German expressionist director of the 1922 vampire silent film, Nosferatu. And young Luis is reading Salem's Lot, a novel about a town taken over by vampires. Good performances and tight direction add to the viewing experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way this movie can be interpreted as a political allegory. Why do you think the movie ends with a girl warning "all future invaders"? Why do the filmmakers equate real estate gentrifiers with vampires?
The movie repeats the vampires' belief that the Bronx was an easy place to take over because it's filled with "poor" people and that no one will care if they disappear. What are some of the ways this movie advocates for social justice?
Do you think the movie does an effective job of conveying an important message through an entertaining vehicle? Do you think using a fun movie is a good way to encourage public awareness of problems and engage people to act to make things better? Why or why not?
Apart from the underlying social content, is this a good horror movie? Why or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: October 2, 2020
- Cast: Jaden Michael, Gregory Diaz IV, Gerald Jones III, Shea Whigham, Jeremie Harris
- Director: Osmany Rodriguez
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: for violence, language and some suggestive references.
- Last updated: October 23, 2020
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