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Director Jason Eisener on 'Kids vs. Aliens' and being a kid

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Director Jason Eisener on ‘Kids vs. Aliens’ and being a kid

No parents allowed!

Kids vs. Aliens tells a person everything it needs to know about it in the title. There are a group of kids, and yes, they fight aliens. But the name also promises silly and over top action which director Jason Eisener (Hobo With a Shotgun) is also able to provide. The film looks back on youth with a childhood whimsy that audiences will be able to relate to while telling a scary and exciting story. Eisener spoke with AIPT about his latest release.

AIPT: What was the inspiration behind Kids vs. Aliens?  

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Jason Eisener: It was based on a true story, and I was so impressionable as a kid, and my parents were trying to convince me there’s no such thing as ghosts and aliens and whatnot, and then here’s this trailer on TV that says it’s real, based on a true story.  

And I got obsessed when I was around the age of the characters in the movie of going to every library and reading every book I could on alien abductions and UFO sightings so that I could prepare myself. I thought, “They’re going to come for me sometime, and I got to be ready,” and I kept a baseball bat under my bed.  

And so making movies in my backyard with my friends, and this idea of a UFO or aliens could be lurking in our backyard, that has always stuck with me. And I just wanted to make the nightmare version, my childhood nightmares as a movie, because I would often have nightmares of me and my friends hanging out in the backyard, and then either it’s Aliens or Predator or the T-Rex from Jurassic Park chasing us, and we’re just running for our lives  

AIPT: Kids Versus Aliens, is a really fun title, and it’s a fun movie, but it’s also very gory. The language isn’t exactly family friendly, either. Why did you decide to go that route?  

Eisener: I wanted there to be this kind of feeling of lawlessness or when parental supervision isn’t around, how kids can talk. And I remember growing up and learning swear words from my friends and experimenting with them. I wanted to try and have a realistic portrayal of what I remember my childhood being when parents weren’t around.  

And I was a little worried a little bit. I’m like, “Was it different when I was a kid?” But then I would see with our actors, once the parents were gone or whatever, they would start acting crazy.  

AIPT: That’s funny. I’m glad you brought up realism because it’s a movie about kids fighting aliens, so it’s fantastic. But there’s actually an authentic quality to the kids. And there’s really good chemistry. Did you have to develop that over time, or was it just kind of natural?  

Eisener: A lot of the kids are from my hometown, but there’s two kids, Gary played by Dominic, and Jack who’s played by Asher, they’re from Vancouver. And so when they came, that was important for me. It was like I wanted them to all be buds and be friends and just so you could get that comradery. I was very inspired by Ghostbusters while making the movie, because there’s the feeling of the friendship between those three guys in that film.  

It just feels so tangible, and the charisma just comes off the screen. It’s like Ivan Reitman allowed those guys to have some freedom within his frames to probably improvise a little bit. So I wanted that kind of feeling and the similar comradery between my three kids or whatever.  

So, when Dominic and Asher came from Vancouver, I got them all in an arcade and we just played video games, and we just hung out and ate pizza, and they became friends so quick. So yeah, they were like a little gang while we were making the movie. And I wanted the movie to feel like it’s about kids making a movie, but I wanted it to feel like we’re all kids making a movie on set. And I wanted them to feel that there was no tension or that they have freedom to give me ideas and have fun.  

AIPT: There’s not very many scenes with adults in it. Why’d you decide to go that direction?  

Eisener: I wanted to live in the kids’ perspective, and that’s why it was so… the parents are in it at the beginning and they’re like, “We’re going away for the weekend,” and they leave the kids alone. And for me, it’s kind of a similar experience when my parents would go away on a work trip or on a vacation and we would be left home, there would be similar sort of shenanigans that would go on.  

So, the moment where the kids bust in on the sister with her boyfriend, and they have a stereo blasting techno music, that’s for real. I used to do that to my sister with me and my friends at three in the morning, and we’d just bash into her room and have a crazy dance party and throw Christmas decorations everywhere. So that’s a reenactment of what we used to do to my sister. But I just wanted that feeling of just being with kids and being in that perspective, and no adults allowed.  

AIPT: Why did you decide to go with the classic creature design for the aliens?  

Eisener: I think because that’s what was in my nightmares as a kid. When I was reading books about aliens and I would see the tall gray aliens, that for some reason was so scary to me. It was… maybe I was really scared of the idea of aliens just coming into my home or coming into my room. I also had sleep paralysis a lot when I was a kid, so sometimes that kind of blended too, and where I would see a dark figure come into my room and whatnot. There was something unnerving about it, almost having some sort of human-like quality to it. It’s bipedal and two feet.  

And so it’s mostly inspired by just the classic kind of gray alien. Even when you would see glimpses of them in X-Files when I was a kid, they’re so creepy to me. So, I am just kind of honoring that sort of tradition.  

AIPT: How important was the pacing to you?  

Director Jason Eisener on 'Kids vs. Aliens' and being a kid

Eisener: It was pretty important. It was like, I designed it to be this kind of… it’s a very musical movie. There’s not a frame of the movie without music in it. And so, I wanted people and kids to be watching the film and bobbing their head to the movie and enjoying the musical kind of ride. And then at a certain point, it just turns into a haunted house ride in a way. 

And so for me, I wanted to make something that it just had that kind of movement. It’s almost like a song in a way, and so I just wanted to keep that flow. And it’s a 75-minute movie. I want it to be short and sweet, and so that you could just put it on with your friends and have a good time, and then you can go out and do something after, or put on another movie.  

AIPT: You previously did Hobo With A Shotgun. Are you going to stick with exploitation genre, or are you looking to do different things?  

Eisener:  There’s so many kinds of movies I want to make. I just hope someone will allow me to make them. 

Kids vs. Aliens will be in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on January 20, 2023.

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