Friday, January 20, 2023

The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict: "Kids vs Aliens" (2022)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s RLJE Films/Shudder’s gateway to horror, Kids vs. Aliens.

All Gary (Dominic Mariche) wants is to make awesome home sci-fi movies with his older sister Samantha (Phoebe Rex) and his best buds Miles (Ben Tector) and Jack (Asher Grayson Percival). But suddenly, all Samanta wants is to hang with the cool kids, especially bad boy Billy (Calem MacDonald), who she starts to crush on. When the siblings’ parents head out of town one Halloween weekend, an all-time rager of a teen house party turns to terror when aliens attack, forcing the siblings and their filmmaking friends to band together to survive the night.

A still from horror/sci-fi film, KIDS VS. ALIENS, an RLJE Films and Shudder release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

The Good

Joseph: Although the teen angst and sibling drama in the first act are nothing new (see my thoughts in “The Bad” section), once the aliens come into play, Kids vs. Aliens becomes weird, wild fun. The alien person-in-a-suit costume design is a cool throwback, and the practical effects, which include melting teenagers and other gruesome goodness, are a blast. The third act features some mind-bending visuals and concepts, and makes what for me was a shaky start well worth getting through.

Mike:  Kids vs Aliens is a fun entry into the kids vs evil genre that has plenty of classics in it like The Goonies, Monster Squad, and It to name a few. Without the big budget of a large studio footing the bill, a little bit goes a long way here.  From quite effective practical effects to the kinds of outfits kids would put together to portray aliens and soldiers in their own home movies, things are just on the right side of looking cheap to be believable.  All of the kids put forth a great effort into bringing their characters to life, with Calem MacDonald playing Billy - the jerky, punk, antagonist guy - to a tee.

[L-R] Asher Grayson Percival as Jack, Dominic Mariche as Gary, and Ben Tector as Miles in the horror/sci-fi film, KIDS VS. ALIENS, an RLJE Films and Shudder release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

The Bad

Joseph: To be fair to this film, I was slightly above the target market age for the eighties kids versus creatures movies such as Monster Squad (1987) and kids-having-adventures movies like The Goonies (1985), so the vibe with Kids vs. Aliens doesn’t press any nostalgia buttons for me as it might for many others. Until the aliens attack and especially once the action starts taking place on their ship, there are no real surprises in the story nor nothing that sets it apart from similar fare. The character of Billy follows all of the cliches for the stock “jerk that you can’t wait to see get his” character, though MacDonald does a fine job in the role. 

Also, I’m no prude, but the constant swearing by the youngest characters felt overdone to me after a bit. Maybe the comedy rule of three would have worked better in that department.

Also, I usually avoid discussing endings because I am anti-spoilers, so suffice it to say that I found this one less than satisfying, out of left field, and there for an obvious reason.

Mike: Director Jason Eisener says he “wanted this film to feel authentic to the lawless language that unruly kids use out of range of adult ears” and to a degree I think it does, but when it starts to sound like Quentin Tarantino wrote the dialogue it might be time to rein it in a little.

While not set in a bygone decade, this type of movie hit its stride in the 80s and while this DOES try to include a lot of the tropes of that era but with a more modern attitude, it never manages to feel satisfying. For every nostalgia button this tries to hit, it misses more often than not.  

[L-R] Ben Tector as Miles, Asher Grayson Percival as Jack, Phoebe Rex as Samantha, and Dominic Mariche as Gary in the horror/sci-fi film, KIDS VS. ALIENS, an RLJE Films and Shudder release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

The Verdict

Joseph: The actual kids fighting aliens action, which features impressive practical effects and some peculiar proceedings, makes this one worth a watch. 

Mike:  This isn’t exactly the most original concept we’ve seen in recent years.  Feeding off of the popularity of things like Stranger Things, Kids vs Aliens tries valiantly to place itself next to genre stalwarts like Monster Squad, It, and the criminally less-mentioned Super 8, but comes up a bit short.  What could have been an ideal gateway movie for the younger crowd may be skipped by parents due to the sheer number of F-bombs that are dropped throughout.

At a brisk 75 minutes there’s not a lot of time to mess around, and that might be the film’s saving grace.

KIDS VS. ALIENS is in Theaters, On Demand and Digital TODAY, January 20, 2023.

Kids vs. Aliens

Directed By:  Jason Eisener

Written By:  John Davies & Jason Eisener

Starring:  Dominic Mariche, Phoebe Rex, Calem MacDonald, Asher Grayson Percival, Ben Tector

Run Time: 75 minutes

Rating:  Not Rated

Release Date: 2022

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