We chat with the director about his new Kiddies-in-Peril film and how an often-forgotten ride in the motion simulator influenced its fast running time.
By Brad Gullickson Published October 1, 2022
This article is part of our coverage of the 2022 edition of Fantastic Fest, taking place September 22-29. In this post, we chat with director Jason Eisener about his latest horror adventure, Kids vs. Aliens. Follow our reviews, interviews and features from the Fest in our Fantastic Fest Archive.
There is a special rush Jason Eisener hunt with children vs. Foreigner. It’s an energy somewhere between a haunted house and an amusement park ride. He’s not trying to absorb the bounces and bumps you experience as you turn a corner in a corn maze while a maniac with a chainsaw leaves his machine inches from your face. He wants to capture the flight of your body that comes after. The director craves the speed of “Let’s get the F outta here!”
children vs. Foreigner follows a wild pack of kids who spend their free time making cheap monster movies in their backyard. They try to tear the strange stories out of their heads and put them in front of a camera. It’s less about whether they find a screen or not, and more about documenting their imaginations and proving to themselves that they’re far more interesting than the bored teenagers mocking them.
Gary (Dominic Marie) knows his movies are awesome. He only wishes for his big sister Samantha (Phoebe Rex) would recognize her radness before Billy (Calem McDonald), the cute bastard she has a crush on. The rituals of youth are upon them (parties! booze! sex!) and threaten to ruin Gary’s origin story as a filmmaker. As he turns his camera on the bullies and reveals their mundane atrocities, Gary hopes to dampen Samantha’s desire to fit in. It’s a good trick and then the aliens destroy the party.
Those who have seen a Jason Eisener film can imagine what lies ahead for these poor children. tramp with a shotgun delights in a grotesque stained with an 80’s grain, and children vs. Foreigner don’t want to spoil the aesthetics. Instead, Eisener injects a hefty dose of adrenaline into the experience, boosting the film’s brisk seventy-five minute runtime.
children vs. Foreigner‘ appeared as a first draft as a short film Slumber Party Alien Abduction in the horror anthology v/H/S/2. With an even shorter time frame, Eisener wanted to create a ride inspired by a real motion simulation attraction created by one of his favorite horror film directors.
“Stuart Gordon did this Foreigner drive,” says Eisener, “it’s one of those things where you sit in a chair, and it’s a movie, but you feel like you’re going through it. I wanted to create a similar experience, although it’s not a footage film, but I wanted it to have the feel of a haunted house ride. I wanted to see these kids have an experience where humans get melted and aliens get dismembered. all that stuff I like seeing their perspective through a horror scenario.”
Stuart Gordons Foreigner: Drive at the speed of terror was an interactive film simulator that ran briefly in San Francisco and London from 1994 to 1995. The ride, starring Gordon’s frequent collaborator Jeffrey Combs, lasted barely twenty minutes but made a tremendous impression on those buckled. they were off, and they didn’t stop until they came loose. Jason Eisener wanted that for his short film, and he wanted that for it children vs. Foreigner. The only difference between the film and the simulator? Not every child survives the endeavor.
“I try not to hold the children back,” says Eisener. “If they were adults, I would want to treat them the same way because I see them as strong and inspiring as any adult could be. I do not know. I like the idea of children having more of an adult experience.”
Without stumbling into spoiler territory, children vs. Foreigner makes way for a sequel at its climax. While you could probably imagine a sequel tramp with a shotgun, children vs. Foreigner is the first Eisener film where you’d be seriously disappointed if we didn’t get a second bite. You should see the frame that comes after the fade to black.
“It’s a horror movie,” he continues. “I wanted to make people feel the same way I did when I made the short film, but I dream of making another one. If people like it and they tell Shudder and RLJE Films they want to see another one, we’re ready to go back there and start filming the next one right away. We’ve already mapped it. There’s a lot of breadcrumbs in the film that lead to the next one.”
People don’t think of Eisener as a sequel guy, so it’s surprising to hear him talk like that. Nevertheless, he has never been one to let a good idea fizzle out in another format. children vs. Foreigner began his life not only as v/H/S/2 but as an extension of an earlier project, a project deeply connected to his youth.
“For me,” says Eisener, “it was a way to cast out a lot of things that really inspired me. A few years ago I was pitching at the masters of the universe movie and I did a huge deep dive because that was the first thing I did as a kid. I popped back into it and I didn’t get the gig or whatever but it stuck with me and I realized I wanted to do something of my own that is like this or could expand outward masters of the universe and she–Ra. children vs. Foreigner also has its own little universe.”
A franchise is only as good as its toys. So how Jason Eisener designed children vs. Foreigner, he did this with the imagination that Kenner, Mattel, Playmates or anyone could build a whole line of action figures around it. Gary and Samantha should step up to their true plastic form, complete with kung fu holds and dropkicking action!
“There’s literally a playset in there children vs. Foreigner‘ says Eisener. “I call it the Slime Throne. And, you know, back then, every toy had a little slime thing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a toilet thing where you put mucus on it. masters of the universe had the slime pit with that skull.”
children vs. Foreigner is a challenging adventure. It is the film that every child imagines their life could become anytime. Gary and his buddies have the most epic treehouse barn arena yet. They have the gnarliest gadgets, and the movies they make in their backyard would rival the grown Steven Spielberg.
Eisener’s fulfilling children’s fantasies all around. The children’s fantasies of his audience. The fantasies of his child actors. Most importantly, however, are his own. He can finally be the child his child self has always wanted to be.
Related Topics: Check the Gate, Fantastic Feast
Brad Gullickson is weekly columnist for Film School Rejects and senior curator for One Perfect Shot. When he’s not chatting away about movies here, he’s rambling on about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Follow him on Twitter: @MouthDork. (he him)