Kids Vs. Aliens Director Jason Eisener On Kid-Friendly Sci-Fi, His Love Of Physical Media & More [Exclusive Interview]

Jason Eisener has been quite the busy filmmaker over the last decade or so, largely focused on documenting the world of wrestling through his series, "Dark Side of the Ring." That might explain why the guy who made "Hobo With a Shotgun" had a full decade-long break before making his next feature film. Well, fortunately, Eisner has indeed stepped back behind the camera for a new movie, and this time, he's made a kid-focused sci-fi flick in the form of "Kids vs. Aliens," which is set to make its debut later this week.

The movie focuses on a kid named Gary who wants to make awesome home movies with his best friends. Meanwhile, his older sister Samantha wants to hang with the cool kids. When their parents head out of town one Halloween weekend, they throw an all-time rager of a house party that takes quite the turn when aliens attack. Though not a direct feature adaptation, it was in part inspired by his segment from "V/H/S/2" titled "Slumber Party Alien Abduction."

I had the very good fortune of speaking with Eisener in honor of the film's release late last year. We discussed how his film got made with relatively few hurdles, how his childhood inspired the story, what's going on with "Dark Side of the Ring," and much more.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'The flow of the movie is very musical'

First off, congratulations, man.

Thank you. Thank you.

Getting a movie made is a minor miracle.


You're premiering at Fantastic Fest, but not only that, you have distribution and your movie has been acquired before your world premiere. How does that feel?

I'm stoked. I'm very excited. I guess, yeah, this is my second movie and it's been a long time since I made my first movie. I remember all the feelings I had when I made that movie, and getting distribution and all that. It was so exciting. Now, it's ten years later, and all those feelings are coming back.

It only just occurs to me now that your first movie, "Hobo with a Shotgun," was based on a short in "Grindhouse." And now you have a movie that is essentially based on your short. Is it interesting that you've kind of had that happen twice now.


After a decade gap, no less.

Yeah. It's kind of actually been, in some way, how I've been able to get projects and things made, whether it's on my film stuff or TV or making pitches that have sold to studios. It was always, I had to make a little short film to kind of pitch the idea and get executives, producers, and financiers [on board]. If they see a short that can work, or they can see that they can market something out of it, or that an audience — I've been lucky that some of those shorts have gone online and people like them. It helped me push them through into features.

So just for the sake of our readers, as the filmmaker, how would you explain "Kids vs. Aliens" to people? What's your quick little "watch my movie" pitch?

Yeah. I'm trying to figure it out.

Or give me the long one. We've got a few minutes.

I really wanted to make a fun movie that I think kids today could really get into and vibe with it. And the flow of the movie is very musical. There's not a frame without music. I really wanted to have this musical experience, where you'd be bobbing your head to it. Then at a certain point, it just turns into this haunted house ride. I really love haunted house rides and that kind of experience, or the real-time experience of going through something like that. So I wanted to give people that kind of experience, and then also see kids be the main characters, but also seeing kids in a way that you don't normally get to see in movies, and how they talk and act. I just wanted to make an authentic experience to childhood. Hopefully people, they'll see it and it'll remind them of their childhood a bit. But yeah, it's a crazy movie where kids are fighting aliens and trying to survive a night.

'The movie is based on my childhood'

I think what's nice about something like this is we all grow up, but then when we see an authentic representation of what it was like to be younger, you're like, "Oh yeah." I think with this movie, yes, there are aliens, there are fantastical elements, but it's also, that's what it's like to be a teenager, doing stuff you're not supposed to be doing.

Totally. A lot of the movie is based on my childhood, making movies with my friends in my backyard, and trying to convince my sister to be in them, and terrorizing her with my friends. There's literally moments in the film that are just plucked out of my own childhood. And then also being inspired by back home, on a farm in Nova Scotia, we have this crazy UFO story where a UFO crashed into one of our harbors in 1967. All these fishermen rushed out thinking it was a plane crash, and they were going to look for survivors, and they just found this glowing light coming from underneath the surface.

Then, days later, the American military came up, parked their boats over it, kept it all secret from the public. Ever since, there's been all these conspiracy theories, and rumors, and I had family members who were in the Navy, and they heard stories, too. So when I was around the age of the kids in the movie, I was hearing all these stories and being so freaked out of the idea that aliens could be in our backyard, or that they could be coming out of the water, which was, to me, a really terrifying idea.

Well, especially because I think aliens, so traditionally, it's like they come from above. That's why I feel like oceanic movies, it's that idea of, we focus on outer space, but...

I know, right? The ocean, we don't know what's down there.

You did the "Slumber Party Alien Abduction" segment in "V/H/S/2."


How long was it before you told yourself, "I think there might be a full movie here," or was it something that a producer came in and was like, "You should turn this into a movie." How did that process go?

Originally, when we made that film, oh my gosh, 10 years ago or so, at the time, I thought I wanted to make it into a feature film. Right after I was like, "Let's do it, let's do it," but it couldn't happen. Then over the years I kind of forgot about it. Then Mark Ward, from RLJE, he reached out and he was like, "I love that segment. That's one of my favorite segments from 'V/H/S.'"

It's one of mine too, just for the record.

Oh, thank you.

It's so good.

Thank you. So he was like, "I'd love to make a movie with you, or you do a feature version of this." I was like, "Cool, yeah. I want to do something different. I love the short for what it is, and I want to preserve that, and make it its own thing," but I wanted to make the feature and expand it, and bring the inspirations that I have now into it.

Is it nice when a guy from RLJE comes to you, a company that does well with this kind of movie, and you already know going into it that, "I'm working with a guy who knows exactly what to do with this kind of movie"?

Totally. He just got it. It was honestly, after so many years of pitching movies and doing the whole song and dance of pitches, and months of pitching, and building decks, he was just, it was over a phone call. He was like, "You want to do this?" I didn't even necessarily have to pitch anything. He just believed in me. He was like, "I want to see you make a film. If you're going to do something like the 'Slumber Party Alien Abduction' thing, that's cool." He just believed in me and green lit it off that. I couldn't believe it. I was like, "When is this dream — where's going to be the trick?" You know what I mean?

It's the person looking over your shoulder thing. You're just waiting for someone to tap you on the shoulder and say, "That's it. You're done." Someone figures it out.

They let me make the movie I wanted to make. It was amazing. It was honestly the best experience.

Even when I saw the title of the movie, I just remember thinking this feels like the kind of movie, as you're wandering around Blockbuster and then you're like, "Yes, this," and then you beg your parents to rent that movie for you.

Yeah, totally. Growing up I remember doing exactly that. Going to my video store, and I would be looking at the covers. You just lose your imagination just looking at covers. I just would spend hours in there just looking at all the box art. But yeah, that's my goal. When I was a kid, and I was the age of these characters in the movie, I turned a shed in our backyard into a little clubhouse, and I just would rent movies. There was a deal at our video store, five movies for $5 for five days. I would just go there and just clean out the whole horror sci-fi section in summer. I'm always thinking of that kid when they're looking at the shelf, on the DVD shelf, even on the spine, trying to catch their attention.

'All I want is that s*** to be on a physical release'

So one thing, I guess, is worth bringing up, because part of the distribution deal you have with is Shudder, which is great, Shudder is wonderful. But I think we're starting, with streaming, we're seeing the impermanence of it. Things are leaving streaming services that don't have physical releases. Do you know if it's going to get a physical release or do you worry about it mostly just existing in streaming and just the way that exists now?

I actually don't know for sure, for sure, but I really hope so, because yeah, that is important to me. Although the streaming side of just getting this movie out, that's what I'm all about. To me, this is for kids, and the way they're going to find it is by finding it online, because no theater usher is going to allow them to go in. But having a physical release would be awesome. We also filmed so much amazing behind the scenes footage that I hope that could be turned into something and put up.

But if you see my collection back home, it's just insane. To me, it's all, this sounds weird, but I have all my films organized by directors, and so I just imagine a kid someday maybe having my films together on a shelf. I just want it to look great, to just be a cool little part of their shelf with some wild movies. So yeah, I frigging hope so. My TV show, "Dark Side of the Ring," I made 30 documentaries, hour long documentaries, and all I want is that s*** to be on a physical release. It's just living out there in the ether, but we poured our heart and soul into those documentaries. I just want that to be a piece of archive that hopefully, maybe a thousand years from now, we will find it under a rock or something.

Only because you touched on it, I do want to ask, because there was supposed to be a "Dark Side of the Ring" season 4, I guess it was announced at one point. What happened with that, or what is going on with that? I'm not really sure. It seems a little unclear what the state of it is right now.

Yeah. We're not making any announcements yet, but right now, we're doing a show with The Rock called "Tales from the Territories," which, it's close to "Dark Side of the Ring" in terms of the reenactments, but we changed it up. Instead of it being just one-on-one interviews, it's a round table with all the wrestlers. So they're telling each other stories, and you just get that awesome camaraderie between them, and they'll remind each other the crazy details of it. So every episode has five or six crazy stories within it, whereas "Dark Side" is just one story. But yeah, "Dark Side" is not over. We've got plenty of time to continue.

So you're actually working directly with The Rock on that?

Yeah. He's our producer on that.

Oh my God. What's that like working with the most famous person in the world?

He's great. He's a huge help, especially with any of the wrestlers we want to be featured on the show. He's friends with them all. They all have a lot of respect for him, and they know that he is going to take care of them. So he's been a huge help in getting talent, and then helping us do some voiceover stuff, and stuff with commercials. Yeah, it's been great.

Bringing the journey full circle here, the original short came in "V/H/S/2." And then we didn't have a "V/H/S" movie for a while, but the "V/H/S" movies are back now. Have they talked to you, or would you have any interest in doing another short for them?

Oh, I totally would. Yes. I've got all kinds of ideas for that, and I do love that format so much. Even though I changed it up and "Kids vs. Aliens" isn't a found footage movie, I still do love that genre. When I was making that 'Slumber Party Alien Abduction thing, I was really inspired by making animal perspective movies. Also, I was really inspired by Stewart Gordon's "Aliens" ride ["Aliens: Ride at the Speed of Fright"]. Did you ever see the "Aliens" ride?

I never got to do it, but I'm aware of it, yeah.

I never got to do it either, but I love any clips I can find online about it. It's just like the POV of going through almost like a haunted house. That was a huge inspiration on that. So I want to do more of those, more little ride movies in a way. That's how I see them.

"Kids vs. Aliens" arrives in select theaters, On Demand, and Digital January 20, 2023.