Jason Eisener finally makes his long-awaited feature film return. Kids vs. Aliens is only his second full-length, and the craftsmanship on display is impressive, from the color and lighting to the story’s pacing and editing. Co-written with John Davies, the film makes for excellent gateway horror, as it invites the audience into the shoes of a group of gangly kids. Of course, Eisener is not new to the horror scene. He’s directed a segment in V/H/S/2 (2013), “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” a collaboration with Davies and The ABCs of Death (2012), “Y is for Youngbuck,” among a slew of shorts. His latest film proves Eisener is just getting started.
The story follows Gary (Dominic Mariche) and his friends Jack (Ashery Grayson) and Miles (Ben Tector), a trio of troublemakers shooting a homemade fantasy wrestling movie in the family barn. Gary’s older sister Samantha (Phoebe Rex) joins the action and stars as the movie’s heroic lead. When Billy (Calem MacDonald) and his cronies crash the party, Samantha is immediately smitten by Billy and his dashing good looks, but Gary and his pals know better than to trust the guy who’s made their lives a living hell. Samantha begins questioning her place in the group and wonders if it’s time to hang out with kids her age.
Falling somewhere between Psycho Goreman (2020) and an episode of Goosebumps, Kids vs. Aliens pounds with a tremendous amount of heart, humor, and plenty of F-bombs. The chemistry between the four leads is striking and palpable. They feel like friends, grounded in real problems young kids and teens face. It doesn’t ask too much of the audience, simply presenting a thrill ride about an alien invasion during a booze-soaked party. If you’re a gateway-horror thrill-seeker, there’s so much to love and adore about this little sci-fi adventure.
When Billy convinces his so-called new girlfriend, Samantha, to throw a party while her parents are away, it erupts into an all-out rager. Walls are graffitied, someone pukes in the silverware drawer, and there’s tons of other property damage. It’s not what Samantha had in mind, and how could she have said no? Despite her best efforts, the party doesn’t shut down. Things only get worse from there, and that’s before the aliens arrive to cause more chaos and destruction.
Once the aliens make their presence known, the film kicks into high gear. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and it quickly becomes evident that Gary, Samantha, Jack, and Miles have more to contend with than the outer space creatures. One partygoer, in particular, proves to be the biggest jerk of all and puts the group in grave danger. Things escalate when one of their own is abducted and taken deep within the aliens’ ship, where another has been tied up as a sacrifice. The third act twists and turns until a 1-2 sucker punch of emotion surprises audiences.
From the expertly plush lighting to special makeup effects, Kids vs. Aliens does a bang-up job with the technical aspects, too. Eisener creates a believable, hypnotic world in which the viewer becomes invested in seeing it through to the end. It’d make for a nice double-feature with Eisener’s previous V/H/S 2 segment, “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” as they both feel ripped from the same universe.
While it’s certainly aimed at teens as a captivating, edge-of-your-seat gateway horror, there’s plenty of bite and gore to entice everyone — there’s one gross-out moment that springs to mind that might even make you gag. Kids vs. Aliens wastes nary a single frame, from building up the character relationships to the epic conclusion. It’s worth repeat viewings and then some, that’s for sure.