First, the high rise apartments sprouted throughout the city like hulking brick weeds. Then came the organic juiceries, tea-espresso fusion cafes, meadworks and, to top it all off, a SoulCycle.
This winter, students wearing Canada Goose jackets will frequent these luxury offerings, lugging Fjallraven backpacks, Hydroflasks and Macbook Pros.
Could gentrification be any more horrifying?
Imagine if those students, beneath their $1000+ “I’m fine with animal abuse” coats, were literally (instead of spiritually) undead? Imagine if, on top of the increased cost of living, lack of affordable housing and loss of beloved local businesses (RIP South U Pizza and Elixir Vitae!), gentrification was perpetrated by vampires?
Netflix’s “Vampires Vs. The Bronx” does just that.
Middle-schoolers and Bronx residents Miguel (Jaden Michae1, “Blue Bloods”), Bobby (Gerald Jones III, “Miseducated”) and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) watch their neighborhood start to change. The local hair salons, food stands and bodegas shut down and are replaced by signs for farm-to-table pizza, vegan ice cream and restored vintage furniture shops. Then strange people move in, with pale skin, pointed white teeth and luxury Belle Epoque jackets. It’s already terrible before they start sucking blood.
While hilarious, there are uncomfortably realistic shades to “Vampires vs. The Bronx.” One of the vampires explains that they targeted the Bronx because they needed a place where mainstream America wouldn’t notice, or care, when its citizens disappear. In a COVID-era context, the line is utterly chilling.
Vampires and gentrification aren’t so odd a combination, either. In Bram Stoker’s genre-defining “Dracula,” doesn’t Dracula, an aristocrat, buy cheap real estate in London and feed off its citizens with his privileged, predatory lifestyle?
“Vampires vs. The Bronx” is the best kind of horror story, one with something to say. It’s more than its message, though, and the three leads have enough charisma, and a “Stranger Things”-esque rapport, to make their fight against the vampires exciting even when the action is clunky, or the CGI a tad too obvious.
The plot clips along at high speed, without filler, as the vampires worm their way into the Bronx, pricing residents out of their apartments before biting into their necks and sucking their blood. There’s enough unsettling imagery to be frightening, without pulling from the movie’s slick sense of fun, which is part of a broader, nuanced process; the film pulls off the rarest kind of cinematic balancing act, perfectly straddling horror and hilarity.
The Bronx community is funny and entirely believable, which makes their endangerment all the scarier. The vampires, with their diets of blood, hummus and oatmilk, are formidable, but wonderfully tongue-in-cheek.
The viewer alternates between taking the story seriously and laughing at the absurdity of it all, something very difficult to achieve, and perfect for Halloween. The message is also incredibly important, especially as America appears to be going through this K-Shaped “Recovery.”
The luxury butter shops and pop-up igloo coffee shops may be enjoyable, but at what cost? What are American cities losing by replacing one-of a-kind local businesses and people’s homes with LuluLemons and Whole Foods?
Could the upper-classes literally be sucking the blood of average Americans? Probably not.
Next time one stops by that SoulCycle, Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters, though, beware.
Daily Arts Writer Andrew Warrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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