The Weird Kidz (review) – Frightfest 2023


The Weird Kidz is currently awaiting a release date.


Dug, Mel, and Fatt are 12 years old and just beginning to navigate the tricky path to adolescence. In the small town of Blackbird, they spend their time playing arcade games at the local Guzzle N’ Go while nervously attempting to find their place in the scary world of ‘the teenager’. We can all relate! Twelve is that weird void where you are neither a child nor a teen; your parents treat you as a kid, and your mates demand you grow up. Dug (Tess Passero) is apprehensive and excited about a weekend camping trip with his older brother Wyatt (Ellar Coltrane), who hides his love for Dug behind his rocker image. Thankfully, Dug has his besties Mel (Glenn Bolton) and Fatt (Brian Ceely), plus Mel’s dog, Grumbles, along for the ride.



Meanwhile, Wyatt has brought his pretty damn awesome girlfriend, Mary (Sydney Wharton), with him, which is a bonus for our sexually curious young adventurers. But as the group arrives in Jerusalem Park, an ancient legend haunts their campfire stories, “The Night Child.” Among the rocks, forests and lakes, there is said to be a creature who devours unsuspecting tourists, leaving little to nothing behind. But as the group settles down and Wyatt insists on everyone listening to his god-awful self-penned and performed song, they all assume “The Night Child” is just a story. That is until things start to get really weird! Over one night, two brothers will find a new connection; a young woman will become a protector and idol, and three twelve-year-old boys will journey from kids to fully-fledged teens.

Zach Passero’s love letter to 80’s films such as The Monster Squad, The Lost Boys, and The Gate was eight years in the making, and his love for his central characters shines throughout. However, while an 80s vibe may sit centre stage, there are more than a few nods to 50s B-movies such as Them (1954) and The Monster That Challenged the World (1957). Bathed in sharp humour that plays to the age of its protagonists, The Weird Kidz understands not only the world of the teens who lead its wild and witty adventure but also their feelings, emotions and anxieties. Like many of the 80s films it pays homage to, beneath the gore, amputations and monster madness, The Weird Kidz is an assured coming-of-age story with discussions on family, community, alienation and belonging.



Dug and his brother, Wyatt, feel sidelined by the arrival of a new baby sister, as their parents “pin all their hopes on their new daughter.” The boys feel like outcasts in their town and home; they are latchkey kids with few opportunities for escape who feel let down by the adults surrounding them. Meanwhile, the monster at the heart of Passero’s film is a mother desperately trying to protect her young, her life manipulated by the humans around her. Unlike Wyatt and Dug’s parents, the creature cares for her young and wants nothing more than for them to grow and thrive. Dug quickly realises that the monster shows a level of care his parents do not, and despite the creature’s love of human flesh, he admires its parental commitment. The truth is the monster is far less scary than the adults controlling it, something Fatt, Mel and Mary are about to discover as they search for help. Passero’s conversations on parenthood, adolescence belonging, insular community norms and brotherly love are sharp and lovingly crafted, allowing The Weird Kidz moments of emotional depth amongst the knock-about comedy, glorious gore and monster madness.

Like The Perpetrators (2022), The Weird Kidz celebrates the enduring power of hand-drawn animation, and by the time the credits roll, you may find yourself begging for more, even if it takes another eight years to create. Proudly weird, delightfully creative, joyously nutty and full of heart, The Weird Kidz isn’t just a love letter to the past; it’s a fresh, inventive and engaging example of the role hand-drawn animation can play in the landscape of modern coming-of-age horror comedy movies.


  • The Weird Kidz | United States | 2023
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Summary

Proudly weird, delightfully creative, joyously nutty and full of heart, The Weird Kidz isn’t just a love letter to the past; it’s a fresh, inventive and engaging example of the role hand-drawn animation can play in the landscape of modern coming-of-age horror comedy movies.

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