Prepubescent school children get turned into blood-thirsty zombies in the horror-comedy Cooties. Clint Hadson (Elijah Wood) is an aspiring novelist, who has recently returned to his hometown of Ft. Chicken, Illinois, where is gets a job to substitute at the local elementary school. It is there he is reunited with his old crush Lucy McCormick (Alison Pill), while quickly entering into a feud with Lucy’s PE teacher boyfriend Wade (Rainn Wilson). After eating contaminated chicken nuggets, the kids at the school get “cooties” and and turn into violent zombies, which results in the teachers struggling to make it out of the school alive.
Cooties is a film by first-time filmmakers Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, based on a screenplay by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious) and Ian Brennan (Glee). The film aims to give a comedic twist to the classic zombie apocalypse premise by only having prepubescent kids become zombies. Without a doubt, this is a premise that looks good on paper, but in execution, the film doesn’t quite work out.
The first act of Cooties tries very hard to ensure that there is no sympathy whatsoever for the kids that become zombies. Particularly nasty is the militant bully Patriot (Cooper Roth), who essentially becomes the film’s lead antagonist. The film is trying to comment somewhat on the “loss of innocence” of today’s children. Nearly every kid these days owns a cellphone and in many ways act more grown up than the teachers, who still try to teach by an old fashioned code. There are only a few kids at the school that don’t act like complete jerks, such as the nerdy Calvin (Armani Jackson), who are obviously the ones that don’t end up getting infected by the virus.
Nearly every teacher in the film is representative of a stereotype, such as stoner crossing guard Rick (Jorge Garcia), brain damaged science teacher Doug (Leigh Whannell), the closeted gay art teacher Tracy (Jack McBrayer), Rebekkah (Nasim Pedrad), the paranoid Creationism teacher who has a rape button, and Japanese janitor Mr. Hatachi (Peter Kwong), who spouts somewhat racist metaphors and just happens to know martial arts. Even the leads are representative of stereotypes, with Clint being a lovable loser, Wade being a violent jock, and Lucy always tries to be positive, before inevitably blowing her top.
does not pull any punches when it comes to showing extreme zombie violence performed by school children. This includes tearing “red shirt” teachers into pieces and even (off screen) attacking a baby in a car. It can be hard to tell at times whether Cooties
was trying to be funny with the horror or if it was portraying the zombie school children as straight as can be, with only the very premise being humorous. The plot of the film follows some pretty standard zombie tropes and it almost seems that the whole point of the film was for Rainn Wilson to get suited up and spout one-liners.
Altogether, Cooties is a horror-comedy that sounds like it could have been a lot of fun, but it ends up being just as immature as the kids who become zombified.
★ ★ ★ | WATCHABLE