The film begins with three fishermen on a large boat at sea during the night. While drifting at sea, they encounter strange bright lights in the night sky before being attacked and brutally murdered by something strange and mysterious. We next meet Gary (Dominic Mariche), who dreams of making a fantastic home movie with his best friends, Miles (Ben Tector) and Jack (Asher Grayson). His older sister, Samantha (Phoebe Rex), is also in the film as a leading actress but soon changes her mind about being involved when she gets invited to hang out with the ‘cool kids’ (aka bullies). Samantha struggles to resist the handsome and charming Billy (Calem MacDonald) despite him constantly being harsh to Gary and his friends.
Needless to say, Gary is not pleased with Samantha’s sudden change of mind, and his friends are in agreeance. The harsh bullies she is now hanging around convince her to host a Halloween party at her home while her parents are away for the weekend. But the ultimate Halloween party is soon interrupted when Aliens decide to invade, attacking and destroying everything in their path. Now, Gary and his friends unite with Samantha, arming themselves with everything they can find to survive the night and the alien takeover.
Kids vs. Aliens delivers a strong mix of both horror and fun sci-fi. The film also carries strong retro vibes throughout the entire duration, thanks to the many references, the filming style, and the musical score. The use of colour is a key element I enjoyed, which again feels retro and was used creatively and cleverly. When aliens appear, they are often surrounded by a bright light, initially keeping the alien creatures mysterious and creepy. I enjoyed the work of actress Phoebe Rex as Samantha, who was easily the film’s biggest standout. Alien-wise, yes, it’s obvious that it’s people dressed in rubber suits, but this feels pleasing and acceptable, given the budget and retro vibes.
However, the film is bloated with a few problems that are more saddening than an alien invasion on Earth. Firstly, the dialogue needs more realism and flow, and Samantha’s unwise, deeply challenging choices are hard to accept. As a story, there are some good moments, particularly in the third and final act, which includes a big showdown between survivors and Aliens. But on the whole, I struggled to feel invested in this film and its characters. While having a short runtime of only seventy-five minutes, the movie feels so much longer than it really is. The musical score, at times, is overbearing, and at points, it felt like the music just never stopped playing in the background. I found this creative choice baffling and unnecessary. As for the finale, I wasn’t left desiring more but more disappointed as the film abruptly ended. Given the premise, outline, and many opportunities here, I’m saddened to say this film should have been much more epic than its end results.
Overall, with strong horror and sci-fi elements jammed together, Kids vs. Aliens carries a strong concept with a few great moments and ideas. The leading performance from Phoebe Rex was a major highlight, along with the film’s retro vibes and use of lighting and visuals. Sadly, this is one of those horror films with strong ideas and fantastic concepts, but the results are either uninteresting or baffling. With a short runtime, the story and its characters all struggle to create excitement and engagement from the audience. The dialogue of most characters is also challenging to accept, and it feels unnatural. While the musical score is somewhat pleasing, the instrumental music felt like it never stopped playing in the background, which I found exhausting. Kids vs. Aliens (2022) is Available Exclusively on Shudder from April 14th.