What if E.T. was immediately malicious? Like a straight up evil creature who came to destroy more than just your Reese’s Pieces stash?That’s kind of what is going on with Kids Vs Aliens.
The latest feature from writer/director Jason Eisner (Hobo With A Shotgun) is a throwback to simpler times without being the type of boldfaced nostalgia grab that has become a familiar trope in recent horror releases. While set in modern times, the rag tag group of (actually very rich) kids we follow have all the strongly bonded friendship and inventive gumption that will feel familiar to fans of 80s classics like Monster Squad and Goonies. Given that Eisner is the creative mind behind the VICE’s wrestling documentary series “Dark Side of the Ring”, it might not surprise you that this film is also packed full of wrestling. Any good wrestling fan knows you have to start by suspending your disbelief…which is also a great rule to establish here. There is nothing that happens in these 75 minutes that is based in reality, so it is best to just let go and enjoy the ride.
Audiences are immediately introduced to siblings Gary and his older sister Samatha, along with Gary’s friends Jack and Miles, filming an action adventure sci-fi movie in their homemade wrestling ring in a barn seemingly dedicated to childhood shenanigans. Sam is just barely a teenager and is entering that stage where you start thinking about giving up these childish afternoons in lieu of more “adult” concerns–like boys. When clear troublemaker Billy and his gang of bullies walks in, Sam instantly tosses aside everything she finds fun along with her younger, though loyal, friends to fall victim to the troublemaker’s charms. In that regard, the writing does a disservice to Sam’s character.
Ultimately, Billy formulates an end game to throw a killer halloween party in Sam’s giant house on the lake. Since, you know, her parents are out of town.
Kids Vs Aliens is exactly as advertised. Adults are literally in the movie for one scene and are completely terrible people. Even the teens who have “outgrown” their childish endeavors are very bad people and the source of all the trouble–outside of the aliens, of course. It’s a film that would heavily sides with Allison in The Breakfast Club and her “when you grow up your heart dies” stance. This is a PSA for holding onto what you loved as a kid.
Now onto what you’re really here for, the aliens. They aren’t great. These are the “guys in rubber suits” variety of alien for sure. That didn’t really bother me. They’re kept in shadows and always moving, doing enough bad stuff that there isn’t a lot of time to lament how they could have looked a little better. That said, I knew the minute I saw them is that I would be getting practical effects–and that is absolutely the case.
It takes a little while for the aliens to arrive and start tearing shit up, but in a short movie it didn’t feel like much of a wait. As you might know from the trailer, these aliens are using human flesh to power their ship, and the moment we get to the pure body horror that is the harvesting of that flesh, it is so delightfully gooey that you forget any of the preceding missteps in the effects. There aren’t a ton of instances of gore as I assume the budget was tight, but we do get a cool, if confusing, human to alien transformation and some decent kills.
With a cast made up of such young actors you never know what you are going to get, but everyone turns in a commendable job. Phoebe Rex does great work anchoring the action as Samatha. The younger boys, Dominic Mariche, Asher Grayson, and BenTector, vary in their action chops with Mariche doing the best work as Gary, but you can tell that they are all having a great time getting to say “fuck” in just about every scene.
As far as the story itself, if you are looking for a detailed and character driven story, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you just want to have a good time watching some kids fuck up some aliens, you could do a lot worse!
You can catch Kids Vs Aliens in Theaters, On Demand and Digital January, 20, 2023