Shudder Secrets: Kids vs. Aliens
It’s fair to say that the V/H/S franchise is having a moment, after the recent success of V/H/S 94 and V/H/S 99. Now, one of the shorts from V/H/S 2, “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” has been turned into a feature, Kids vs. Aliens. Directed by Jason Eisener, the feature maintains the campiness of the short and could potentially make a solid gateway horror film.
While Kids vs. Aliens doesn’t exactly break any new ground, it should appeal to fans of “Stranger Things” or even Stand by Me. There’s also a B-movie quality to it, including aliens in rubber suits, that may resonate with fans of 1950s monster movies. There’s something oddly endearing about the low budget and practical effects. Even more delightful is the cast of characters, a trio of friends who just want to make movies in their clubhouse and end up kicking alien butt with major help from big sis.
A Standard Coming of Age Narrative
After a cold open that features a spaceship crashing into water and aliens killing two fishermen, the movie then shifts to introduce our heroes. There’s Gary (Dominic Mariche), Jack (Asher Grayson), and Miles (Ben Tector). The three spend their days making movies, which often feature Gary’s older sister, Sam (Phoebe Rex). Sam is every bit this film’s protagonist as much as Gary. In fact, she has the most interesting storyline of the bunch.
Initially, Sam still pals around with her younger bro and his friends, starring in their movies as a badass warrior-type character who dropkicks dinosaur monsters. She clings to aspects of childhood fantasy and even has wrestling posters hanging on her bedroom wall. However, when she gets a chance to hang out with the cool kids, she ditches Gary and his friends. In particular, Billy (Calem MacDonald) shows interest in her. Unfortunately, Billy is a major jerk and only shows interest in Sam because she lives in a large house, perfect for a Halloween party. “She’s the keys to the house,” he says at one point.
There’s absolutely nothing nice or redeeming about Billy. He’s a one-note villain who uses Sam to get what he wants. He’s even caught on camera, mocking Sam for hanging out with her brother so much and still loving wrestling, despite the fact she’s in high school. Before that, when she protests the fact the partygoers trash her house, he says, “Your parents are very rich. They can just fix it all.” Billy’s friend/actual romantic interest, Trish (Emma Vickers), is just as bad. This is one major gripe I have with the film. There’s no trace of humanity in Billy or Trish, and they come across as cardboard characters. You’ll root for them to get some form of comeuppance. Trust me on that.
That said, the relationship between Sam and Gary drives the film. It’s a well-developed relationship with actual stakes. Further, watching Sam eventually stand up to Billy and his followers is a highlight. Sam finds her inner strength, making her a more complex character than some of the others. She undergoes an evolution, as does Gary. In that regard, Rex turns in a solid performance here and carries much of the film.
There are really two storylines in this film. There’s the relationship between Gary and Sam, which is tested due to Billy, and there are aliens. Lots of aliens! These aren’t friendly ETs. No, these are menacing extra-terrestrials that crash the Halloween party and pluck one victim after another. They use human skin to power their spaceships.
Anyone going into this film shouldn’t expect blockbuster-level special effects. These are rubber-suited aliens. Yes, they look cheesy, but that makes the movie somewhat fun. It’s also entertaining to watch Sam pick up a sword and swing into action to save her little bro and his pals. She makes a kickass warrior woman.
Overall, Kids vs. Aliens isn’t mind-blowing. Still, it’s an entertaining and lean film with brother and sister protagonists that evolve into unexpected heroes. This is a decent gateway horror/sci-fi film that never takes itself too seriously. I can see this finding an audience with the “Stranger Things” fanbase.
Kids vs. Aliens streams on Shudder starting April 14. Keep updated on the network’s latest releases by following my Shudder Secrets column.
Brian Fanelli is a poet and educator who also enjoys writing about the horror genre. His work has been published in The LA Times, World Literature Today, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Horror Homeroom, and elsewhere. On weekends, he enjoys going to the local drive-in theater with his wife or curling up on the couch, and binge-watching movies with their cat, Giselle.