Cooties is a horror comedy film playing now in limited release and on VOD, featuring a group of teachers who must fight off a horde of rabid children after they become infected with a zombie-like virus. Directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion from a screenplay by Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan, Cooties stars Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson and Alison Pill.
When a mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school, transforming the kids into a feral swarm of mass savages, an unlikely hero must lead a motley band of teachers to fight for their lives.
I’ve always been freaked out with the notion of children in horror films. Whether the kid is evil or especially if the child is being harmed in said horror film. Cooties does both and it does both in the most brutal manner possible. When a fourth grader ends up eating an infected chicken nugget, an elementary school turns into a feeding ground for ravenous and bloodthirsty children who will stop at nothing to kill and eat any adults in their way. The comedic undertones of Cooties is what helps to put out the fire of killing kids or having these children tear adults to pieces in ways that would make Tom Savini blush.
The zombie genre is getting a tad played out but the monstrous children in Cooties are not your typical undead. They fall in line with the ‘ravenous infected’ fast zombies. It’s hard to really claim them as zombies at all really – they’re smart. They smash cellphones, cut power, communicate with each other like animals, ride little bicycles around or play jump rope with your intestines. The initial outbreak sequence where the kids begin to unleash hell on the playground was the highlight of the movie. Strong slo-motion effects kick that party off and then limbs are torn to smithereens left and right. I loved the moment where the surviving teachers run into a guy who calmly says, “I do crossfit – follow me,” before he’s quickly killed in hilarious abrupt fashion.
The cast is stellar with Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson both struggling to lead the group to safety but the show stopper here is Leigh Whannell as an awkward teacher who doesn’t know how to relate to other human beings. He constantly yells at everyone to quiet down during his speeches even though nobody is saying a word and he dissects a dead infected child at one point and winds up making the brutal sequence…. Funny. “Why do they always pick the creepiest people for teaching sex-ed?” says Wood’s character at one point.
I think the movie delivered quite well in both the moments of horror and comedy but it felt like Cooties never really found its groove and then all of a sudden the movie ends… to set up a sequel that we’ll likely never get. That hypothetical sequel by the way – would be scary as hell. I was a little shaken when a parent comes to pick up their child and after doing so, the boy infects the baby in the backseat. You can imagine what happens next. Multiply that scenario – and you’d have to for the sequel – then you’ll understand what I mean by “scary as hell”.
Cooties was a fun romp and I don’t like to lump it into the zombie genre because the monsters here are on a different level of horror. I will say that even though the film never found a balanced tone overall between the frightening or funny, the filmmakers pulled off a solid black comedy that didn’t offend me and I tend to be sensitive when it comes to this kind of horror theme. I had a fun time with it and I’d love to see where they can take it if we ever do come to that point. Hell – the school janitor had a karate action sequence where he killed several little evil bastards and I could watch him do that all day long. There’s nothing else out there that dares turn the act of killing children into such a good time. That alone is a win. A horrible, horrible win.