Monday, October 17, 2022

Brooklyn Horror 2022: "The Weird Kidz"

I have been in high school gyms and in dentist’s offices in my life, so obviously I know “Teamwork” is a thing people celebrate – I have seen the inspirational posters. And with good reason, often – Teamwork gave us the Pyramids and presumably Fruity Pebbles, and I think both of those things are neat. But as an only child and a loner (some might even say “a rebel”) I find a special kinship with people who find ways to make things themselves. What do you think this website is, after all? It’s me being an insular weirdo!

Thankfully for people like me the internet and technology have made it easier to be an insular weirdo while not being all alone about it – we can all be insular weirdos together. And The Weird Kidz, the decade-in-the-making animated film from first-time animation filmmaker Zach Passero, feels like a triumphant celebration of that home-made single-mind aesthetic. It’s about those things literally, in that it tells a tale of a bunch of weird kids who are forced into a makeshift community in order to fight an apocalypse of giant killer ants (so perhaps I should call it an “ant-pocalypse”).

But it seems important to note that this movie was made by one dude sitting at home pounding it out over the course of a decade. He had a few collaborators – his wife Hannah Passero being the big one, who’s credited as “background artist” and whose first pregnancy inspired the telling of this tale. But also the vice cast, which includes the great Angela Bettis and Ellar Coltrane of Boyhood fame. But The Weird Kidz feels dumped out of the same singular brain, fueled by one person’s rhythms and obsessions – it feels deeply idiosyncratic in the way of a Xerox’d 90s zine or a comic-strip buried at the back of somebody’s notebook.

And that is such a gosh-darn thrill. No it’s not quite the massive achievement of Oscar-winner Phil Tippet’s thirty-years-in-the-making stop-motion masterpiece Mad God - considering the resources that Phil Tippet no doubt had access to, that’s a wildly unfair ask. But it’s in the same spirit – a closer comparison would be Dash Snow’s movies, especially last year’s phenomenally odd and entertaining Cryptozoo. And that’s some stellar company to be in, but The Weird Kidz earns its place.

Reminiscent at times of Stranger Things in the ways it very clearly is made by a person who is deeply in love with the latchkey-kid entertainment of the 1980s (so go we all), The Weird Kidz tells the story of three pre-teen boys going on a camping trip with an older brother and his girlfriend only to stumble upon an ant-hill of quite epic proportions. It’s Them! and it’s The Goonies and The Monster Squad – having only recently seen Tobe Hooper’s 1986 remake of Invaders From Mars myself I think it’s also some of that too.

It’s a 50s sci-fi monster-movie meeting Stand By Me, with genuine heapings of horror piled on top – granted you’re reading a person right now whose worst fear is entomophobia so all the gigantic bugs very much tickle my worst freak-out fancies, but there are some truly madly deeply fucked up moments in this movie! The Weird Kidz relishes the Wild West of that specific 1980s proto-PG-13 moment where a movie like Poltergeist could show a man ripping his own face off and scar an entire generation in the process. And I think Zach Passero would join me at the thought of giggling over scarring an entire generation, and for that this singular, wildly entertaining little gem has my gratitude. Now make another one! Just maybe don’t take so long. I’m impatient.


The Weird Kidz screened at Brooklyn Horror 2022.
Check out their ongoing line-up over here!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds fascinating and I'll probably watch it but I'm so over the group-of-buddies-plus-one-girl setup. C'mon, male directors/writers, do better and, more importantly, be more creative.