Sunday, October 16, 2022

Brooklyn Horror ’22: The Weird Kidz

Even in animated horror films, the animals still steal the show. Admittedly, one is a mutant insect creature, but the other is a very good dog named Grumbles. Animator-director-screenwriter Zach Passero could only get away with using animation to put a dog in this kind peril. As for the kids, anything goes, especially during the 1980s. On their camping trip gone wrong, a group of video game-playing friends discover the legends of the National Park are true, or maybe even worse, in Passero’s The Weird Kidz, which had its world premiere at the 2022 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Dug goes by Dug, because there is only room for three letters for the high-scores on his favorite arcade game at the local convenience store (fittingly, it looks a lot like
Dig Dug). He spends most of his time with his pals Fatt and Mel (and Mel’s dog), because he is a classic middle child, overlooked between his grungy slacker older brother Wyatt and an over-achieving little sister we never meet.

Wyatt has agreed to let the boys (and dog) tag along on a camping trip to Jerusalem National Park with his girlfriend Mary, as long as they steal enough beer to make it worth the hassle for him. The clerk at the last-chance gas station is on to Dug, so she forces him to listen her tales of “The Night Child,” which supposedly stalks the park. Of course, Dug assumes they are just legends, until he wakes up in its lair.

Weird Kidz
is a lot like Eric Powers’ criminally under-appreciated Attack of the Demons. Both have a deceptively simple throw-back style of animation that actually recreates their respective late 20th Century decades wonderfully evocatively. The two films have complex genre narratives that take several twists and turns, as well as a number of fully fleshed-out characters.

In fact, Passero ultimately presents a surprisingly rewarding story of brotherly love. Mary is also a very cool character, who goes from being an object of lust for the boys to something like a surrogate sister. Ironically, you rarely see relationships evolve so thoughtfully in live-action flesh-and-blood horror movies.

Of course, there is also all kinds of gore, mostly played for gross-out laughs. Anyone who enjoys the take-no-prisoners humor of
South Park or Solar Opposites will be on solid ground throughout Weird Kidz. Yet, the mayhem builds in a relatively logical manner.

Weird Kidz
is definitely the kind of film that gives horror fans warm fuzzies. It has the right kind of Night of the Creeps/Return of the Living Dead vibes, while leaning into nostalgia for 1980s summers spent with old childhood friends. Highly recommended for genre and animation enthusiasts, The Weird Kids had its grand premiere at this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.