Synopsis: 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 in the fight of their lives.
A nice, normal day at the local elementary school turns into a nightmarish fight between a group of teachers, and their students who have turned into flesh hungry monsters in Cooties, a horror/comedy film that’s been on my radar for over a year now. Featuring a cast that includes Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill and Leigh Whannell, Cooties sounded like a it was gonna be a lot of fun. For the most part it is, but it’s flawed, and that hurts, because it seemed to have all the necessary ingredients to succeed.
A young girl sits down to eat her school lunch which consists of the usual fare, fruit, milk and some really messed up looking chicken nuggets. After eating them, she falls ill and ends up turning into a flesh eating monster! Making matters worse, she goes after some bullies that were taunting her earlier, turning them into flesh eaters as well. And then they go after other kids, spreading the virus across the whole schoolyard until every kid in the school is a creature looking for flesh to consume. But there aren’t any children left to chew on, the only people left are the teachers who find themselves unable to escape the school that’s now surrounded by a group of 10 year old cannibals trying to eat them!
Wood plays Clint, a failed novelist who returns to the town he grew up in (Fort Chicken), to become a substitute teacher at the same school he went to as a child. One of the funniest bits in the film is the name of the opus he’s writing, which is a horror story that takes place on a ship that he calls “Keel Them All”. WHen he arrives for his firsr day of work, Cooties breaks out all of the stereotypical character roles that it can muster. Wilson plays gym teacher Wade, who has a tic that makes it very hard for him to say the words “Dual Wheel Well”. As played by Pill, Wade’s girlfriend, Lucy, is the impossibly perky and forever enthusiastic teacher who fervently believes that things will work out in the end. McBrayer plays Tracy, the repressed homosexual that believes he’s fooling everyone into thinking he’s straight, when in actuality he’s about as gay as they come. Leigh Whannell plays Doug, the socially inept teacher who has the annoying habit of telling people to stop doing something that they’re not doing, like telling the group to ‘Shush” when they’re absolutely silent. All of these jokes are fairly funny at first, but as the characters continually fall back on them, they grow tired very quickly. Speaking of growing tired very quickly, Jorge Garcia (of TV’s LOST), plays a stoned school bus driver who ends up getting high and talking to an imaginary giraffe sitting next to him in the bus. His character has absolutely no connection to the rest of the film, and he doesn’t even interact with anyone in the cast until the very end, which I understand was re shot several times to enliven the film. I just don’t understand the point behind him even being in the film at all as he serves no purpose other than to recite some really stupid lines that are supposed to be funny. The script (co-written by Whannell and Ian Brennan) makes the cardinal sin of repeating the same (mostly bad) jokes over and over ad infintum, until they just aren’t funny any more. First time directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, do a yeoman’s job keeping everything on track, but the film looks dry and staid for the most part.
But the performances here are indeed quite earnest, and the gore is decent enough. There is a nice amount of grue tossed about here and the children are appreciably malevolent. When the shit hits the fan, the carnage is nicely crafted for the most part. Cooties isn’t boring, and that really helps the proceedings move along despite all of the the rampant stereotypes within. Although it’s neither frightening or especially funny, I can’t say I despised this film. Maybe it’s because I enjoy any film where kids get slaughtered, but I sorta enjoyed Cooties. At least I enjoyed it enough to give it a muted recommendation. I won’t tell you to drop what you’re doing to run out and see it (actually it’s currently on VOD, so there’s no running necessary), but there are far worse films films than this one currently playing on VOD (Area 51, I’m talking to you). It’s acceptable fare for a slow Friday/Saturday night.
Cooties – 2.5 out of 5 shrouds.