Thursday, April 13, 2023

Kids vs. Aliens, on Shudder

1980s kids were uniquely qualified to fight alien invaders. They were well-versed in geek culture, but were also self-motivated and self-reliant. The notion of “safe spaces” would be as foreign to them as little green men. That will be just as well for teenaged Samantha and her little brother Gary, because the invaders make the spaces of their small Canadian town decidedly unsafe in Jason Eisener’s Kids vs. Aliens, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

Samantha is an underappreciated big sister, both by her bratty little brother and their frequently absent parents. Being a good sport, she often performs in his science fiction-wrestling home movies, even though she yearns to hang with the cool kids. She thinks she will finally get her wish when Billy, the popular “bad boy,” starts paying her attention. Unfortunately, he shows his true jerky colors when he turns the small Halloween party she agreed to host into a massive blowout. Then the aliens attack.

K vs. A
is not explicitly set in the 1980s, but it definitely has an analogue look and texture. Gary and his friends shoot their movies on VHS and the film itself has a retro style similar to Eisener’s over-hyped Hobo with a Shotgun.  Obviously, every pitch for this film included generous use off the words “Stranger Things.” Yet, K vs. A also has a surprising (and not in a good way) mean streak, not unlike Hobo. It is not quite as brutal as the neo-exploitation “spoof,” but it still is not nearly as much fun as it should have been.

However, Eisener has a great lead in Phoebe Rex. She brings a lot of energy and charisma as Samantha, elevating the role above what must have been on Eisener and John Davies’ printed script. Sadly, the younger kids are just annoying caricatures of entitlement. Boorish Billy is a ridiculously cartoonish villain, who bears no resemblance even the worst bully anyone ever matriculated with, but Calem MacDonald fully commits to his sneering jerkweedery.

K vs. A sounds like more fun than it really is—deceptively so. However, it has a genuinely amusing post-credits stinger, so if you start watching it, you might as well stick it out (since its only 75 minutes). Not particularly recommended, Kids vs. Aliens starts streaming tomorrow (4/14) on Shudder.