KIDS vs. ALIENS: If “Goosebumps” was Rated R!
I’ve been looking forward to Jason Eisener’s ‘Kid’s vs. Aliens’ since I heard the ‘Hobo With a Shotgun’ director was making a feature length film based on his awesome short horror segment in V/H/S/ 2. Granted it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, I remember really digging the concept and execution of it.
The simple premise of this movie is so right up my alley it feels like it almost was tailor made just for me. In a nutshell some kids have a Halloween party that goes off the rails when evil aliens descend upon their lakeside household. The alien visitors for the most part resemble our traditional “Greys”, which I find to be one of the most terrifying creatures of the more modern era. I guess though they’d be more in line with what we saw in 2014’s ‘Extraterrestrial’ though (minus the CGI) than say the brilliantly bizarre 1989 Whitley Strieber biopic ‘Communion’. That being said, you’ve gotta admire how ambitious this movie is with all of its practical effects work and not a shred of CGI really anywhere to be found. Add in a lean run time of around 75 minutes (68 of them actual movie time) and you’ve got a nice, fast paced horror adventure at the ready.
Plus the main kid protagonists of this movie are also quite charming for the most part. None of them get bogged down in modern online politics or social commentary, they’re just kids in danger with wildly filthy mouths being….kids. In essence they’re a fairly solid attempt of mixing the kids in Stand By Me with The Goonies. I’d say for the first 3rd of the movie I was pretty sure this might end up being one of my favorite horror films of 2023. It’s got a lot of heart at its core as well (maybe trying a bit too hard at times) and characters who you can for the most part get behind on this weird little ride.
However with ALL of that going for it, still there’s something here that in my opinion just didn’t quite click the way it should’ve. That’s not to say this isn’t a fun little movie, becuz it is. It just misses the mark at being a modern horror classic, maybe because they’re trying just a bit too hard at mostly everything they attempt to sell the audience. It’s same problems I had at times with 2013’s ‘Knights of Badassdom’ a movie which I do admittedly still enjoy quite a bit.
I guess I would say what it does succeed at being is a pretty excellent R-rated “Goosebumps” movie. In many ways, even the way it’s filmed looks a little bit like a vintage Goosebumps episode for better or for worse at times. I guess my problem was maybe my personal expectations weren’t quite met in the way I’d initially hoped for. Though this movie in many ways borrows heavily from the likes of classics like Fire In The Sky, it really lacks the intensity, atmosphere and mystery that could have pulled from it, even if just a little bit of it. The aliens In my opinion are shown way too much in plain sight. All of the things that make grey aliens so terrifying is completely absent here, they run around roaring like enraged grizzly bears.
The aliens also look a bit too much like men in rubber suits, which I usually don’t mind, but easily hiding them a bit more might have benefited this greatly. More of the monsters isn’t always better. Overall though I do appreciate the almost entirely practical nature of this film’s special effects. It’s refreshing to see filmmakers getting a bit more old school these days!
Though the characters for the most part are fun wonky children, they do try a bit too hard to sell us that on all levels. Much of the character development feels a bit forced. The kids and their antagonist teen enemies end up being somewhat over the top caricatures and don’t always feel like “real’ people. The kids are NERDS, the older teen sister-hero is a NERD and the teens are really reeeeally meanies who don’t like NERDS. By the middle of the movie I found myself wishing their personas had been toned down. They started to feel like they were written by the “modern day Kevin Smith” or something. Ok, well maybe not that bad. Instead of growing to like them more as the movie progressed, I found myself becoming slightly annoyed with everyone’s behaviors and actions even if they were good in nature.
Looking at it now though with zero expectations, it’s still one I do plan on revisiting again. It’s got plenty of action and really does try to feature a cast of heartwarming lead characters and pathetically almost unbelievably evil teen villains to you are basically told to hate anytime they appear. It also takes place on Halloween and makes it prime viewing for the holiday. There’s a lot of good here so don’t get me wrong, I just feel like someone needs to put together an amazing home invasion Grey alien horror film and do it the right way. In the perfect world I was hoping this would be a mix of 1989’s Communion and maybe like Evil Dead. (here’s a still photo from Communion).
Instead it leans hard into the campy territory and doesn’t skimp on some impressive Gore FX either. Perhaps it’s really my own expectations that took this down a few pegs for myself, with all the crappy stuff out there streaming I do think there’s a lot of fun to be had. Check this one out, it’s worth a rental, but don’t go in expecting it to be quite as cool as his segment was in V/H/S 2. Still thank you Jason for adding an entertaining alien invasion flick to the cinematic horror library!