Rating: 3 out of 5.

As a massive fan of director Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun, I was still looking forward to Kids vs. Aliens despite not being crazy about the alien subgenre of horror. Very few times have extraterrestrial tales been depicted cinematically in an intriguing fashion; unlike last year’s Nope, Kids vs. Aliens opts for a classic green-man alienoid appearance, pinning them against sassy, movie-obsessed preteens. Kids vs. Aliens never goes quite as exploitative or balls-to-the-wall insane as one would expect given the premise, yet still manages to be a relatively entertaining pump of throwback sci-fi horror.

Gary (Dominic Mariche) and his friends film fantasy/action epics in their backyard, with the help of Gary’s sister Samantha (Phoebe Rex). Samantha, though, is quickly outgrowing the childish antics of Gary’s friend group. She would rather chill with the popular kids, who also happen to be major bullies. The worst of them all is blonde Billy (Calem MacDonald), complete with chiseled abs and a revolting attitude out to make life a living hell. As Billy woos Samantha, the kids spot a mysterious bright light glowing over the water. Billy pressures Samantha into throwing a huge Halloween party while her parents are away. Space invaders looming nearby, it doesn’t take long for Kids vs. Aliens to devolve into an outrageous sci-fi extravaganza.

Make no mistake, this is one strange movie. Billy’s characterization changes at the drop of a hat, going into full villain mode and begging for friends to “fucking break something” in Samantha’s home after she gets upset. The actual kids lack polish in their performances. Characters act over-the-top, the scenarios are bizarre, and those aliens themselves do not feature particularly memorable or distinctive design. And yet, there is something about Kids vs. Aliens that I found myself enjoying.

At only 75 minutes in length including the credits, it is hard not to feel that Kids vs. Aliens barely seems long enough to be considered a real movie. The ending in particular suffers in this regard, almost feeling unfinished. It is as if Eisener was already thinking ahead for sequel potential. Sometimes, this option works to a movie’s benefit, but with Kids vs. Aliens, a lack of finality is baffling. Still, the good frequently outweighs the bad. We are treated to a variety of excellent kills and straightforward frights, leaving a lasting impression that Kids vs. Aliens could be another Shudder hit.

Kids vs. Aliens beams down to Shudder subscribers, in theaters, and On Demand on Friday, January 20th.

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