One of the most interesting genres in the world of film has always been independent horror. If you're looking for a genre to tell a story that reflects a topic of social discussion, while embodying a genre that's accessible for all, horror and sci-fi are the two that are usually the most successful. Cooties is no exception, as it tackles two socially conscious subjects in the guise of a zombie apocalypse comedy. While it's a fun film for the most part, it is a bit sloppier and slightly more derivative than comfortable.
Clint (Elijah Wood) is back in his home town of Fort Chicken, home of some of the finest chicken in the United States. At least, it was until a foodborne illness made its way into the local chicken supply and turned a bunch of chicken nuggets into instruments of destruction. It figures that Clint's first day as a substitute teacher at his alma mater would turn into the end of the world, and now he has to figure out how he and his co-workers are going to make it out alive. It's a bunch of elementary school teachers versus the most vicious predator nature has ever created... their students.
Cooties is the love child of Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan, the co-creators of the Saw and Glee franchises, respectively. You can tell in this film’s DNA that these two men bring their previous experiences to the table, as the film recalls the gore and terror of the former property and mixes it with the snark and comedy of the latter. If you caught both properties on a good day, and had them make a baby, Cooties is definitely that baby. In fact, Cooties’ strengths are only bolstered by Wood and the rest of the all-star cast of teachers fighting for their lives.
In particular, Whannell’s Doug and Nasim Pedrad’s Rebekkah stand out as two of the breakout characters on the adult end of things. That’s not to say that co-stars Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill or Jack McBrayer are slouches, but Whannell and Pedrad get to go over the top enough to generate more hits than misses. Unfortunately, for as funny and as scary as Cooties can be, there are some negative issues that definitely need to be addressed.
For starters, the story moves too damned fast. With a brisk 96-minute run time, directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion do a good job of keeping the film bouncing. Unfortunately, this means we don’t get too much time to build upon the story, nor enough moments with the characters to really get to know them properly. If a little more downtime was built into the film’s opening act, then we might have had more of a payoff when we’re asked to believe these characters are in danger.
The most harmful mistake in Cooties’ arsenal is the fact that it has two sequences meant to be so shocking they actually disrupt the flow of the film. The minivan attack during the first act’s build up, and the opening sequence showing the production of chicken nuggets are such heavy notes, that it takes a good couple of minutes to get back into the flow with a film that contains such beautiful one liners as, “Naptime, motherfucker.” While Cooties’ mistakes aren’t deal breakers, they are definitely points against the final product’s outcome.
Despite some missteps and a generally rushed pace, Cooties is a hell of a fun time at the movies. When the jokes pop, they get the crowd going. When the tension ramps up, it’s pretty hairy. And when the cast is allowed to shine, it blazes on the screen with timing and execution. If you can see this with a crowd or a group of friend, perhaps some grown up liquid refreshment, then Cooties is fun worth catching in theaters!