Wednesday 10 May 2023

Kids vs Aliens (Jason Eisener, 2023) Review

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I'm tired of hearing and smelling what comes out of your face hole!” It's been a long time since the director of Hobo With A Shotgun unleashed his foul-mouthed, gore-splattered, ramped-up roar of a debut movie onto audiences, but finally the renegade filmmaker from Nova Scotia has dished up a new feature-length helping from his multi-coloured mind of madness...

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Why the fuck are you hanging out with these losers anyway?” Samantha (Phoebe Rex) is a late bloomer and a bit of a social misfit, quite happy to be making crazed home movies with her little brother Gary (Dominic Mariche) and his gung-ho pals Jack (Asher Grayson) and Miles (Ben Tector) – think The Goonies but with a potent fondness for the word fuck. However, she has no real friends her own age and dresses like a kid, so when the apparently charming teen hunk of the town Billy (Calem MacDonald) turns up with his chums looking for a place to party – their eyes set on Samantha's parents' house – she turns her back on childish things in search of more mature teenage flings.

Well suck time is over!” With Gary and Samantha's absentee parents disappearing on yet another of their business trips, the big sister is stuck looking after the little brother with a now-broken arm, which is gonna cramp her style with Halloween festivities on the horizon. Until, that is, she is coaxed into hosting an epic rager by sensitive-on-social-media Billy, judgemental bitch Trish (Emma Vickers) and tag-along underling Dallas (Isaiah Fortune). Naturally, things get out of control, but concerns about a party-trashed home, social humiliation, and a brother's revenge are quickly swept aside when a swarm of E.T.s invade for a bit of the old alien abduction.

Get the fuck outta here before I rip your shrimp dicks off!” // “Well guess what, if you touch our shrimp dicks you'll go to jail!” Just about scraping the 69-minute mark by the time the credits roll (not including a post-credits scene), Kids vs Aliens is a brisk affair – although one's own mileage will vary depending on whether or not you tolerate the mucky-mouthed kids. If you're on-board, especially if you similarly have fond memories of making weird home movies with your mates (KvA is a somewhat auto-biographical movie for Eisener and his co-writer John Davies), then there's plenty of fun to be had. Is it as full-on and chaotically bloody as the director's debut feature Hobo With A Shotgun? Certainly not, so it's best to go into this not expecting that, but the movie nonetheless crashes about with a similar sense of off-kilter energy.

Come on, my dick's full!” Visually, the film is a kaleidoscope of intense colours – chief among them gaudy greens, yucky yellows, popping pinks, and brilliant blues – with strong blasts of light often flaring into the camera lens of cinematographer Mat Barkley. The house party scenes, for instance, feel like a bag of Skittles shagged a bag of Starburst while on acid and this is what popped-out of the lysergic baby oven. In-part this helps cover up some of the budget restrictions on the aliens, but the film rarely ever feels cheap, instead it's full of energy, driving headlong through its swiftly-told tale – and just when you're quite ready for some proper alien action, the dangly-fingered greys show up to wreak havoc. Similarly adding a nice sense of scale to this modestly-budgeting film is the surprisingly large-sounding score by Andrew Gordon MacPherson, combining retro synthwaves with almost Spielbergian symphonic sounds.

Can't you see I'm doing someone, uh, something.” While the character work is relatively basic, the motivations and personalities are clear-cut and efficient, even if some of the more emotional moments either stumble or don't get enough room to breathe. The kids tear about the place like sugar-high maniacs from the heady days of staying out until the street lights come on, the un-policed land surrounding Gary's home serving as their own personal playground of chaos to shoot their movie (boxing dinosaur-humanoids and all) – and there's even some of that classic Stephen King trope: near-psychopathic teenagers putting children's lives in direct danger.

I'd rather go punch myself in the dick.” As previously mentioned, Kids vs Aliens doesn't match Hobo With A Shotgun for blistering levels of bloodshedding, but it does have some effectively gooey moments of splatter. The aliens seem to have invaded Earth to fuel their ship – by melting humans into goo – which leads to one particular highlight where an unlucky teen suffers said fate. The resulting sequence is the answer to the question 'what if Lucio Fulci made a Saturday morning kids show?' – it's certainly a different way to think of a gunge tank. Meanwhile, another teen is transformed (by ingesting alien vomit, of course!) into what can only be described as the ice hockey version of Freddy Krueger, a powerful and razor-toothed berserker gleefully shredding through the scenery.

Great, another boring Halloween in this shit hole town.” Essentially a fairly close, but more expanded and brash, remake of Eisener's 'sleepover alien invasion' segment from V/H/S/2 (although there's no dog-mounted Go-Pros here), Kids vs Aliens may suffer a few stumbles, but is a lot of fun if you're down for the ride. A sequel is strongly hinted at, and for this reviewer at least, another helping of gooey extra terrestrial chaos would certainly be welcome.

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