Vampires Vs The Bronx is Director Oz Rodriguez’s love letter to his home. It’s a horror-comedy you won’t want to miss out on this weekend. We’ve got some fun behind the scenes facts for you all in this q+a.
The film follows a group of teenagers who are forced to protect their neighborhood in the Bronx when a gathering of vampires invades. The film is a tongue and cheek look at gentrification, with an ode to the kid/teen adventure movies of the 80’s like The Goonies, and The Lost Boys.
PPLA: Have you always wanted to do this movie? And are you Dominican as well.
OR: Yeah I’m Dominican, and I’ve kind of always wanted to do this movie, I wanted to do something in the Bronx, and featuring the Caribbean (culture). I kind of wrote this movie, a little bit faster because I’d never written before. I’ve been a director for a little bit, but I haven’t written anything before. I felt like there was a lack of the stories I wanted to see, and I guess since no one else was gonna do it, I had to.
PPLA: We felt like this was a 10 year old’s dream ode to Blade. Like what would you do if you and your friends could be Blade for a day in The Bronx. ( We mean that in the highest compliment because this movie is fun)
OR: I love that, I love that review. Ultimately, the most important part is that the kids like it.
PPLA: Why horror-comedy?
OR: I wanted to make an adventure movie like the ones I saw growing up. I loved Lost Boys, I loved The Goonies, Back to the Future. all these movies, where kids or younger people set out on these crazy adventures, and faced impossible odds or monsters. So Monster Squad 2 is another one. And those movies deal with monster elements, but they’re really fun movies at the end of the day, I wanted to balance that with comedy. And I’ve been working for a minute directing comedies, so it’s something I’m very comfortable with. It made sense to approach it with that (comedy) in mind. There were a couple of things I wanted to tackle. Tackling gentrification is easier if you include horror and comedy, so it doesn’t become so preachy of a message.
PPLA: What made you jump into writing?
OR: It was December 2016, and they had just confirmed Jeff Sessions, and he went on to say that Dominican immigrants just came here for crime, and that, that really affected me. I was back home and I just wanted to write something. I was also at a crossroads in my career, I came in working on SNL and my directing partner Matt Feline passed away, so I was literally at a crossroads of what to do next. That pushed me to write something that was more personal to me, and reflected more diversity and the people who look like me or where I came from. Or different heroes on screen. Because, all these movies I mentioned are, I was able to relate to these kids but these kids are in California, in Oregon, all these places and alot of them are white, and I saw myself in them, so I wanted to see if it worked the other way.
PPLA: For sure, it does. 100%. You’re Dominican…we were living for the Garlic Adobo. We we’re like “yoooo we’re fighting vampires with garlic adobo!!”
OR: Yeah for sure! I wanted to get as much Dominican shit in there as possible.
PPLA: You nailed it with the Adobo, and don’t think we didn’t see the Cafe Bustelo.
OR: Presidente! (*PPLA Note: It’s a beer if you don’t know look it up). To be able to work with so many Dominican actors too is so amazing. Zoe is obviously so successful but I’m very proud of that; to have had so many Dominican talent on set.
PPLA: On Dominican talent, what magical genie lamp did you pull out, the movie opens with Zoe Saldana?
OR: Yeah it was her, it was her.
PPLA: How did that come about?
OR: Alright, so my magical genie lamp was, we were trying to cast that role and looking at different people, but I had her in the back of my mind. She’s been in all these amazing things like Avatar, and you know I was unsure but my mom says and you can quote this “El que no se lansa no se crusar el mar” (He who doesn’t launch himself, doesn’t cross the sea). So I said fuck it and I wrote her a letter, sent it to her reps and it somehow got to her. And, I think I wrote that I was Dominican maybe like 25 times, yeah 25…no probably really 17. After it got to her she responded to it, and the schedules matched up. She came down to The Bronx one day, and we had a blast. She’s from New York you know, and it was instantly a great a mood and I just wanted her to be, I wanted the Dominican Zoe to come out. Yeah we talked in Spanish only, and ate Dominican food that day. It was a blast, it was a dream come true, she was amazing. I don’t even know what to say, she was amazing and we had such a fun day.
PPLA: Do you have a favorite scene that you wrote vs a favorite scene that you shot?
OR: The scene when Luis is explaining vampire lore, that was a fun one to shoot. I felt like we captured that in writing and it came out perfectly when we shot. But on screen, Glo-Tv. She was so good that I kept on adding more to it, and just kept telling her like, improvise because she’s so good at it, she’s so in it. And we ended up making more of those moments because she was just so amazing.
PPLA: Do you think your background in directing for SNL made you more comfortable with improvising?
OR: Ah, well you know it really is about casting the best person for the role. Then you just have to point the camera at them and roll, you can really encourage them to try shit out. You want people to feel like they’re safe to try things out. My thing is, I want to encourage actors to try everything, and I’ll let you know if you went too far, but I promise we won’t put it in if its not working.
PPLA: Now do you have the writing bug?
OR: I do yeah! I’m writing and developing things and challening myself with things I don’t know about. I’m writing a children’s book right now.
PPLA: Is it set in the Bronx?
OR: Well, its set in New York City, it might be set in the Bronx, I’m really interested in showing more communities and thats a possibility, also maybe Brooklyn. You can’t really show other communities in mid-town you know? I want to explore the New York stories you don’t really get to see as much. One thing I’m really interested in is Latino stories: Dominican stories. I’m interested in Caribbean latinos and working in that space, showing those stories.
PPLA: What is one thing you really want people to take away from this story?
OR: It’s a horror-comedy but I really wanted to show the impact of gentrification. And I wanted to show it before it happens, and these communities deserve to grow and prosper, but still keeping their own identities you know? So, really shining a light on that (gentrification), and its effects. You know this (gentrification) is something that we really talk about after, after the coffee shops have been opened and the communities have been erased.