Kids vs. Aliens

I would have lost my mind for Kids vs. Aliens when I was 14. In fact, the movie made me feel that age again while I watched it. This is a thrill ride that keeps the pedal to the floor for 75 minutes (68 if you take off the end credits). Of course, with that length, you won't get particularly deep character or plot development. It's kind of nice, though, to get a genre picture that gleefully dispenses with anything that's not absolutely necessary and just provides a slick, streamlined experience.

Gary (Dominic Mariche) and his teenage sister Samantha (Phoebe Rex) are frequently left home alone by their parents. To bide time, they make a homemade monster movie with Gary's friends. A high school bully named Billy (Calem MacDonald) wants a suitable place to hold a big, booze-filled Halloween party, so he cons Samantha into thinking he's interested in her, thereby granting him access to the house. The party gets wildly out of control, but spray-painted walls and someone puking in the silverware drawer are small potatoes compared to what happens when a group of aliens arrives. Everyone except Samantha is captured and taken to the extra-terrestrials' ship at the bottom of the nearby lake. She heads in to save them.

Where the film goes next is gross, slimy, violent, and pretty cool. It's a plot point that Samantha knows a lot of pro wrestling moves and is handy with a sword, putting her in a good position to fight back. Both people and aliens die in creatively gruesome manners. A fun point about the movie is that the self-serving Billy is just as much a menace as the visitors from space. He repeatedly tries to throw Samantha and Gary between himself and the aliens, which adds a level of danger. All of this happens at breakneck speed, with no lag in the pace. In fact, certain events happen “just because.” That would be a detriment in other films. Here, though, you're primed to accept that any wild element could spring up at any moment.

Kids vs. Aliens was clearly made with love – love of aliens, of big-ass swords, of professional wrestling, and of practical gore effects. That's why it works, in spite of the super-short running time and lack of depth. Director Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) just wants to indulge in all the things he finds awesome, and that's precisely what he does. Without that palpable love, the movie would come off self-indulgent and empty. With it, there's a sense of joy that proves infectious. Eisener also gets very appealing performances from his young cast. Across the board, they feel like real kids, even amid all the wild mayhem.

I enjoyed the movie's manic energy and tongue-in-cheek tone. There's always something happening, and it's never boring. Kids vs. Aliens has a single goal: to provide a short, punchy dose of all the stuff horror/sci-fi buffs were obsessed with in middle school and, if we're being honest, still have a fondness for as adults. On that level, it's a total treat.

out of four

Kids vs. Aliens is unrated, but contains graphic violence and strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes.