Thursday 1 April 2021

On demand: "Vampires vs. The Bronx"

Difficult to live up to a title like Vampires vs. The Bronx, but Oz Rodriguez's film is possessed of the spirit to get some of the way there. A genial Eighties throwback, it operates rather like a transatlantic cousin to Joe Cornish's Attack the Block, introducing a close-knit group of varyingly awkward Bronx teens - headed by the civic-minded Lil Mayor (Jaden Michael) - who gradually realise the developers gentrifying their neighbourhood under the tip-off name of Murnau Properties are actual bloodsuckers. Rodriguez never stops having fun with his own premise. Our heroes' resistance training consists of sourcing a DVD of Blade from the corner bodega; they nervily venture inside the kind of boutique estate agents that lurks on every high streets, where the blinds have to be lowered so suspected big bad Frank Polidori (Shea Whigham) can appear; and the holy water they decant into empty Sprite and Fanta bottles results in satisfying vampire flameouts come the final reel. (The fun appears to have been infectious: Sarah Gadon, previously a rather pallid and withdrawn screen presence, is newly effervescent in the guise of exactly the kind of kale-and-flaxseed-munching arriviste gentrification attracts; the role will draw her out, in more ways than one.) We get flashes of social subtext, Rodriguez showing how his boys-in-the-hood leads are caught between vamps on one side and gangbangers on the other; as Polidori puts it, in a 12-rated runaround's most chilling line, "Every last one of you could disappear, and no-one would notice." Chiefly, it's straight-up, unpretentious entertainment, the sort of thing viewers of a certain age would once have rented on VHS for sleepover purposes, only slicker, more generous and far less fly-by-night. Typical exchange: "Did you just melt that guy's face?" "Yeah, it was crazy."

Vampires vs. The Bronx is now streaming via Netflix.

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