(director: Maritte Lee Go; screenwriter: Sherman Payne; cinematographer: Cybel Martin; editor: Tim Mirkovich; music:Jacques Brautbar; cast: Asjha Cooper (Shawna), Fabrizio Guido (Pedro), Mason Beauchamp (Chris),  Keith David (Babineaux), Abbie Grayle (Granya), Craig Tate (Lefrak), Sammy Nagi Njuguna (Tunde), Kenneisha Thompson (Denise), Al Mitchell (Marvin); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; John H. Brister: Amazon Prime/Blumhouse; 2021)

“With a high kill-rate of vampires and a high degree of silliness–it still sucks.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Blumhouse people along with Amazon release this slickly made supernatural vampire action film set in New Orleans, one that delivers a strong social conscience message against gentrification (which was done much better and in a much funnier way by the recent film Vampires vs. the Bronx). Despite being entertaining as a spirited character-driven coming-of-age tale–one with a high kill-rate of vampires and a high degree of silliness–it still sucks. It’s not creatively directed by the Black filmmaker Maritte Lee Go. It’s scripted as a modern-day satire on vampires by Sherman Payne–using a cast of mostly African-Americans.

It tells the story of the 15-year-old Shawna (Asjha Cooper), an awkward New Orleans teen born during the time of Hurricane Katrina. She becomes the first Black teenage girl vampire slayer in the history of movies (which is quite an honor even if not up to Jackie Robinson’s accomplishment for his race). 

Because Katrina left N.O. in ruin, we see such ugly sights as the city’s homeless being transformed into a vampire army by a formerly enslaved über-bloodsucker, Babineaux (Keith David, as the villain, his bloody performance spices up things a bit).

As Shawna and her gay Mexican immigrant sidekick, Pedro (Fabrizio Guido), observe a vampire army forming in their slum neighborhood, they decide they must stop sunning themselves on the roof and act. The BFF’s agree they must fight to stop the vampires, but not in the old-school movie way — with sunlight, garlic and wooden stakes. Instead they fight them off by confronting society over such hot-button issues preventing their city from growing while still stuck with such problems as racism, poverty and drug addiction.

Shawna’s mom (Kenneisha Thompson) can’t cope with her conditions and has become a drug-addict, living in the low-income housing projects that’s being demolished, as her vulnerability gets her turned into a vampire.

To stop the attacking vampire army from gaining recruits among the disenfranchised, Shawna teams up to fight them with her hunky crush Chris (Mason Beauchamp) and the nerdy vampire fan-girl Granya (Abbie Gayle) as they try to locate and destroy the nest of vampires.

Their fight against the vampires was not believable or compelling, and though the film might have meant well introducing such heavy real-life social issues–it still turns out bad because the wit is not there to save itself from being so serious and its uneven cast is unable to give voice to what it’s trying to say because not everyone in the cast is up to snuff.

REVIEWED ON 10/16/2021  GRADE: C+