CFF23: Bugging Out Over The Weird Kidz

Image courtesy of the Chattanooga Film Festival

Anyone out there who may follow my reviews has probably concluded by now that I am a nerd when it comes to genre film, but I have a special love for anything Sci-fi tinged, from my defense of Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem to my deep dive on the lesser-known Aliens from the Abyss, I’ve made it kind of obvious. As an animation fan also (see Delta Space Mission or Futurama pieces), seeing The Weird Kidz was almost decided for me when I first heard about it.  

Full disclosure, Chattanooga Film Festival was not the first time I watched Zach Passero’s feature. I had the opportunity to see the movie a couple of months ago when it played at Salem Horror Fest. I absolutely love this movie and wanted to review it then, but came down with a post-festival Flu instead. Luckily, great fests think alike, both even playing the film in an appropriate Saturday morning spot. Regardless, I’m thankful I get to revisit this banger of a movie again. This time with the intention of making The Weird Kidz more popular and giving sci-fi, horror, and animation fans like myself something to anticipate.  

A woman sits on one side of a restaurant booth across from Mary and Mel in The Weird Kidz
Image courtesy of the Chattanooga Film Festival

If you’re a huge Stranger Things fan, then this movie might also be for you. The Weird Kidz is a lovingly hand-drawn throwback to 80s-style family adventure films and ‘50s-era atomic monster movies. It starts with a trio of pre-pubescent boys, Dug (Tess Passero), Mel (Glenn Bolton), and Fatt (Brian Ceely), going on a camping trip to the desert with Dug’s older teenage brother Wyatt (Ellar Coltrane) and his girlfriend Mary (Sydney Wharton). After partying by the campfire and comically interfering in Wyatt and Mary’s romantic endeavors, an attack from a giant bug creature known as “The Night Child” leaves the group separated and desperate for help. As brothers Dug and Wyatt try to escape the vicious creature’s lair, Mary, Mel, and Fatt encounter a group of zealots looking to appease the beast. 

I assure you, The Weird Kidz is as wild an adventure as it sounds. Like if The Goonies were trapped in a Lovecraftian version of THEM! While this won’t be the kind of animated film that you’d probably let children see, it includes language, nudity, and gory violence while telling a fantastically well-developed coming-of-age story and incorporating the underage pride of trying their first beer and cigars, the outlandish fun had by a mischievous group of friends, and being on the precipice of losing one’s virginity.  

Mary also becomes the subject of the boys’ infatuation as their burgeoning sexual curiosities begin to take over. I can admit, The Weird Kidz does exaggerate an overly horny portrait of adolescence at times and, at the start, puts Mary into a bubble of teenage fantasies on par with Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but Mary doesn’t stay a dimensionless character for pre-teens to ogle and becomes affectionally revered for her heroics too. Her storyline is juxtaposed with an endearingly sweet brother bonding story between Dug and Wyatt, who, over the course of their journey through the desert together, grow past the cynicism and name-calling that is found in most brotherly relationships to find common ground and a person that will always have the other’s back when they need it most. This little indie animated film has some of the best character development I’ve seen all year and more heart too.  

Many have compared The Weird Kidz’s animation to 2019’s Attack of the Demons, which also played Chattanooga Film Festival back in 2020. I’m afraid I have to disagree. I think many forget Attack of the Demons was crafted with more of an early South Park animation style using stop-motion and construction paper images. In contrast, The Weird Kidz is hand-drawn over watercolor backgrounds. It may be a little clunky and different for those used to Pixar films, but after a minute or two, you just get into it. The easy parallel between both films is that they are each extremely entertaining animated indie horror flicks that contain impressively good storylines and a surprising amount of gore. I tend to think The Weird Kidz pushes the fun up to eleven, but a back-to-back double feature of both movies would certainly not be out of the question.  

Wyatt is covered in blood and screaming in a moonlight lit underground lair in The Weird Kidz
Image courtesy of the Chattanooga Film Festival

Something else to note are all of the remarkable connections the film has. The Weird Kidz’s producer, Master of Horror Lucky McKee, is known for directing some wild horror films like May, his interpretation of Jack Ketchum’s The Woman, and teenage zom-com All Cheerleaders Die. Passero has worked for McKee multiple times as an editor and, going back to May, a role in the makeup department where he (likely) met Angela Bettis, the titular character of that film, who also appears in The Weird Kidz as a rest stop employee. The three have worked together across several McKee projects, along with another Weird Kidz cast member, Academy Award Nominee Sean Bridgers (Room). 

On the technical end, The Weird Kidz has an excellent sound design that sways from playful to dark and atmospheric, and the film’s awkward teenage rock song is so begrudgingly catchy that I catch myself singing, “Hey Girl!” at random points.  

The Weird Kidz will likely make my list of favorite horror titles at the end of the year. It’s a film that makes me want to see it again every time I finish it, and I’m sure I’ll go back a few more times whenever it arrives on VOD or physical media too. It’s a non-stop saccharine-coated piece of nostalgia that’s a delicious treat for the senses. Grab some sugary cereal and enjoy it in pajamas.  

The Weird Kidz is playing as a part of the Chattanooga Film Festival’s virtual lineup. Badges for virtual attendees have been discounted for the remainder of the festival and will allow you access to the remaining virtual lineup through June 29. Single virtual tickets for The Weird Kidz are also available.   

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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