As a person who loves horror movies and makes horror movies, some of my favorites to watch and create are those that have an element of comedy to them. For me, Cooties is a horror comedy that fires on all cylinders. The movie had me infected with laughter throughout the film’s runtime and I would’ve loved to have directed it.
Cooties stars Elijah Wood as Clint, a struggling writer who returns home, so he can be a substitute teacher at the elementary school he attended as a kid. On his very first day, he meets several of his fellow coworkers including his former childhood crush, Lucy (Alison Pill), her obnoxious and overbearing gym teacher boyfriend, Wade (Rainn Wilson), closeted teacher, Tracy (Jack McBrayer), right wing zealot, Rebekkah (Nasim Pedrad), weird biology teacher, Doug (Leigh Whannell), quirky hipster Vice Principal Simms (Ian Brennan), and stoner crossing guard, Rick (Jorge Garcia.) After an infected chicken nugget turns all the school’s pre-pubescent kids into a bunch of feral savages, the teachers must band together to fight them off, so they can find a way to escape the school grounds in one piece.
The one thing I came away with after watching this film is that it felt like a horror comedy from the 80’s. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Gremlins, except this time around the Mogwai are replaced by pre-teens. I’m not saying it’s on the same level of perfection as that film, but it definitely taps into the light-hearted and dark comedic nature of that cult classic. The film’s screenwriters Leigh Whannell and and Ian Brennan (who also play parts in the film) take the novel concept of teachers battling infected students and inject it with characters that are fun variations on those stereotypical caricature-types we’ve seen before. They also do a good job of setting up comedic dialogue bits and physical gags with repeated payoffs that really ramp up the laughs as the story moves along.
Filmmaking-wise, there is an obvious up and down quality to Cooties which is probably due it being directed by first-time directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, but such issues can sometimes be forgiven if you have strong enough acting performances and a decent story (which this film has both.) I will say the filmmakers do seem to have a firm cinematic grasp of how to create a cool montage sequence as evidenced by one montage in the film involving the infected kids doing horrible things on the playground (like playing jumprope with someone’s intestines) and another where the teachers create armor and weapons out of things they find in the school.
I only had two real issues with Cooties. First, the gore could’ve been a little better in parts, and second, the movie should’ve ended earlier than it did. There’s a scene before the end that felt more of a definitive ending with a perfect reference to the beginning of the film. For some reason they tacked on an additional final scene which felt out of place and the scene looked like it was filmed on an obviously fake city set. It wasn’t a horrible scene, but it seemed like it was added just so they could bring back a character from earlier in the film and make the ending more action-oriented. There is mention online that they did shoot that additional ending after the film’s first festival screening, so I would be interested in seeing how it was originally suppose to end.
Overall, I found Cooties to be a hilarious horror romp that had me entertained from beginning to end. It’s not ground-breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t need to be. If you’re in the mood for a silly horror comedy that doesn’t take itself too serious, then check it out. The only side effects from watching this film could be laughter, giggling and a few guffaws.
Cooties (4 / 5)