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The Weird Kidz : A Hand-drawn Horror Film

Three 12-year-old friends head off on a camping trip with one of the gang's older brother and his "totally awesome" girlfriend. Stopping off at a gas-station, the attendant tells them of a local legend of a man-eating creature known as the Night Child. If you've seen enough horror films you know where this is headed.

And so begins The Weird Kidz, a 2D animated film written, animated and directed by Zach Passero. Partially crowdfunded, the film has taken around eight years to complete. It made its debut at The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival in October of 2022.

Passero has a background in horror (working primarily as an editor on the likes of The Woman and All Cheerleaders Die), so it's unsurprising that that plays a major part in the film. But that's only one part of the film which is also part coming-of-age and part adventure film. The 1980s setting is a clue that this film's influences include the likes of Stand By Me and The Goonies. Or to bring things more up-to-date, tonally, it's not a million miles away from Stranger Things.

The film's climax is part creature feature (with some excellent monster designs) and part folk horror. Still, the horror elements are fairly restrained- don't go in expecting buckets of gore or a high body count.

The dynamic between the characters is pretty believable and well observed. and recalls the spirit of the 80s movies mentioned earlier. The characterisation and the coming-of age is as key to the film as the horror element, if not more so. The first act of the film is more John Hughes than John Carpenter.

The inception of the film goes back to when Zach and his wife Hannah were expecting their first child.  "The experience made me nostalgic for my own childhood – the adventures that I had (and IMAGINED that I had); and the stories and films that inspired me to want to make movies, " he said. "It brought a need to return to what I want to do in life and what makes me happy - animating, editing and working on films". Zach then got to work on the script, and brought on horror veteran Lucky McKee (May, The Woman) as producer to workshop and refine it.

On a technical level the film isn't anything overly flashy. The animation is produced digitally but its all hand-drawn so it retains a handmade aesthetic. The animation is fairly basic but this can be easily overlooked when you consider this is a feature produced by such a small team. Passero himself animated, wrote, directed and edited the film, with the backgrounds produced by Hannah.

The film took a while to finally make it to the screen (nearly two years after its originally planned 2020 release date), but the finished result is a real labour of love. It's made with a real affection both for its characters and the movies it pays tribute to.

If The Weird Kidz is playing at a festival near you anytime soon and you have a love for 80s cinema and animation then this is definitely worth seeking out.