Kids vs. Aliens
2023, NR, 75 min. Directed by Jason Eisener. Starring Dominic Mariche, Phoebe Rex, Calem MacDonald, Asher Grayson Percival, Ben Tector.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Jan. 20, 2023
Kids versus aliens. With a title that simple, that perfectly descriptive, any director with a grasp of teenage carnage and interstellar uproar should know how to make a decent movie. Well, Jason Eisener more than showed his credentials with the "Slumber Party Alien Abduction" segment of horror anthology V/H/S/2. A handheld explosion of teenage chaos that suddenly bursts into brutal UFOlogy, it was stripped down mayhem, and also a proof-of-concept for his latest feature, the suitably-named Kids vs. Aliens.
So, the question is, since the original short was so spot-on, what does Eisener do to justify the feature version? First, brevity. Kids vs. Aliens is a speedball romp on a diet of candy and purloined booze. Second, it actually has characters, something for which the original had no space. Thirdly, at some point every single character is unbelievably annoying. Gary (Mariche) is the ultimate infuriating little brother, utterly demanding of his sibling's time, while big sister Samantha (Rex) is getting all boy-crazy and rolling her eyes at all the fun times she and Gary used to have until about five minutes ago. And they had fun, because what kids with a video camera and a wrestling ring in the barn at their remote Canadian home wouldn't have fun? That is, until high school douche Billy (MacDonald) convinces Samantha to let him and his friends have a party at her house.
Yes, everyone's annoying, but Eisener manages to balance the disappointment you'll feel in Gary and Samantha growing apart with the way that he presents Billy and his friends as the ultimate douchebags. Just the absolute dirt worst. And then aliens turn up, kidnap everyone, and use slime to turn them into ... well, more slime. Because what better comeuppance can there be for a douchebag like Billy, and greater threat to remind Gary and Samantha how much they love each other, than super-gooey alien slime murder? Plus, luckily for the brother and sister, they used to spend all their time making movies about slaying super-evil dinosaurs in their wrestling ring, so they've got some experience in this.
A gleefully gross adventure that bundles together all of wrestling-and-horror nerd Eisener's favorite obsessions (he's also part of the team behind VICE's The Dark Side of the Ring), Kids vs. Aliens is exactly the kind of age-inappropriate horror that kids will absolutely love. It's basically the Goonies smashing into Fire in the Sky, shot in hypersaturated DayGlo colors and only slowing down for grisly practical effects set pieces, mostly involving interplanetary acid baths. Subtle, it ain't, including its double-dog-dare setup for a sequel. But who ever wanted subtle when you're talking about face-melting goo?