Kids vs. Aliens takes a decent entry of a horror anthology and makes it even better.
Kids vs. Aliens (2022) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on May 11, 2023
Rating 3.5 /5
In 2013, Jason Eisener directed Slumber Party Alien Abduction, a short segment for the horror anthology V/H/S 2. While that entry is easily the best of the V/H/S franchise, Eisener’s entry felt too basic regarding its premise. While the scary tone is present, the gist of the short is that aliens invade a slumber party and abduct all the kids, with the audience being taken along for the abduction with a VHS recording of the events. It could’ve used something more and, thankfully, Kids vs. Aliens fills in the gaps and has more fun with the idea of bloodthirsty aliens invading Earth.
What helps make this film so much fun with its balance of horror and comedy is that it never feels entirely bound by one gimmick. There’s a tone of the 1980s by focusing on kids being experimental with filmmaking and harboring vulgar vocabulary. But unlike the endless salvo of Stranger Things retreads, this film exhibits the tone of the 80s aesthetic without being strictly 80s-based. The story centers around the plucky kid Gary and his band of friends. They aim to make a violent movie involving guns, dinosaurs, and wrestling which is so delightfully absurd one can’t help but watch their creative narrative. Helping them out with the production is Gary’s sister, Samantha, the oldest member of the crew who is finding it harder to play with the young ones. She’d much rather hang out with bullying teenager Dallas.
The aliens are kept concealed until about the halfway point of the story, only teased in the darkly-shot opening. Most of the first half is spent building up the characters when the parents are away. Gary wants to finish his film (despite an injury), while Samantha wants to have a party at her place for a chance to hook up with Dallas. The party gets out of hand as Dallas is revealed to be not just a bully of children but a violent psychopath. Just when it looks like the party will end awkwardly, the aliens arrive, and the film gets incredibly violent quickly.
The alien assault on the youth is surprisingly grotesque. Their abduction experiments lead to the gory melting of flesh and the gross transformation of the teenagers into mindless beasts. The special effects are surprisingly effective. The scene of one teenager screaming in terror as the flesh melts off their bone is incredibly shocking, especially for a film that has a tongue-in-cheek tone. There’s almost an absurd whiplash of how the film goes from a rowdy coming-of-age feud to a gross-out horror experience. All the splattered guts and the unexpected deaths give this film a unique atmosphere as creative as its protagonists.
The humor never tries too hard for a laugh. There’s a never moment where it feels like the film is winking too hard at the camera. The closest to knowing of the tropes is how the parents are pushed out of the picture. Sam’s parents tell her to watch over Gary and stress how much she needs to be present in a life-or-death situation. The earnest delivery and foreboding nature made me snicker without needing some meta line that mentions aliens. The quirky nature of the filmmaking kids is also charming in its own right, especially since I’ve never seen a film where kids try to fuse two popular genres into a clever production, complete with their homebrewed special effects.
Kids vs. Aliens takes a decent entry of a horror anthology and makes it even better. Not all short films feel like they can jump to feature-length productions, but this is one of those extraordinary exceptions. It’s a fun mixture of amateur filmmaking, growing up, and fighting off the violent advances of bullies who go too far and aliens who go overboard on gore.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.