Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Writers: Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan
Starring: Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill
Runtime: 88 mins
UK Certificate: 15
UK DVD / Blu-Ray release date: 12th October 2015 from Universal Pictures
“I’m givin’ you kids an ‘F’ – for ‘FUCK YOU’!!!!”
‘Cooties’, the first directorial offering from Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, brings us a zombie / infection horror in an as-yet unexplored (or am I mistaken?) location – an elementary school. Aspiring writer Clint Hadson (Wood), newly returned to his home town of Fort Chicken, finds himself booked on a supply placement at a local elementary school – a place overrun with teachers who mostly make the staff of ‘Bad Education’ look professional, and kids who are pretty feral even before the virus takes hold.
After witnessing one of his charges bite a chunk out of another’s face, Clint thinks the day can’t get any tougher – and worse still, no-one he has mentioned it to seems to appreciate the genius of his ‘evil boat’ thriller-in-the-works, ‘Keel Them All’. However, he then has to contend with his long-nursed feelings for teacher and childhood crush Lucy (Alison Pill, ‘Scott Pilgrim Versus The World’) who is dating redneck PE teacher Wade (‘The Office”s Rainn Wilson) – oh yes, and now the children, fallen prey to the consumption of infected chicken nuggets, have dismembered the vice principal and are viciously attacking and eating each other and anyone else they can find!
The film starts off on a really promising note – right from the spot-on queasiness of the opening titles showing the manufacture of nuggets from live chicken to napkin on plate in all its grisly detail, and the introduction of the misfit band of teachers which delivers a good level of laughs and gives the viewer an assurance that they’re in for a fun ride. The gore is high up the chart too, as expected of the infection sub-genre – tonnes of splatter, blackened brains and general entrails abound, and the child actors deserve a mention for their display of all-out aggression and flesh lust, not to mention sinister giggling at their own murderous antics.
However, after the initial threat is released and realised, the high quality of the starting 20 minutes or so sadly then begins to wane – a lot of the humour begins to fall flat and the pace does start to drag as the adults get to a safe room and discuss what to do next. The cast is decent, with Elijah Wood as effortlessly charming as ever, knowingly playing the nice guy with delusions of writing grandeur, but a lot of the other characters lean into caricature – the writers actually seem to have got together and just thought “Hmm, what’s funny? Ah, stereotypes!” Enter, then, the gay male teacher who is of course totally camp and the Japanese janitor who eats a nori packed lunch and has an in-depth knowledge of martial arts.
Also, ‘Lost’s Jorge Garcia turns up for no obvious useful reason as a stoner grounds employee – cue lots of ‘humour’ concerning ‘shrooms and generally being stoned, the like of which may only really appeal to a young adult audience. Saying that, it is obviously a movie which is going for the goofy and the gross-out right off the bat, and playing to the teenage crowd of course isn’t something to knock points off for on its own – it’s just that it can be done without caricature and with higher-brow humour (‘Housebound’, ‘Cockneys Vs Zombies’, to name two).
To sum up then, ‘Cooties’ is a decent enough infection horror film with plenty of gore, but just isn’t as funny as it thinks it is – best watched when you’re in the mood for something kind of silly with a few beers and you’re not expecting your next dream horror film.