The opening of Cooties is enough to put you off eating chicken nuggets for life as a young girl at an Elementary school in Fort Chicken, Illinois eats a particularly nasty looking one. It’s a straightforward start showing how the upcoming infection got going.
We then meet Clint (played by Elijah Wood) who is a new substitute teacher filling in at the school. His first day there is one of surprise as he reunites with an old high-school friend Lucy, meets her PE boyfriend, Wade (Rainn Wilson) & quickly learns that the kids at this school are really hard work.
Clint isn’t helped by his approach…trying to take a more relaxed ‘I’m your friend’ route while also shilling his horror novel, a work in progress.
The child who ate the bad nugget suddenly loses it in Clint’s class & attacks her classmate, a problem boy called Patriot. She rips a chunk out of his face before going on a rampage through the school infecting all the other kids. It’s not long before some of the teachers are being torn apart by the feral-like children with a hand-full of survivors managing to barricade themselves away.
The group includes Clint (who has been scratched but doesn’t seem to have been infected like the kids), Lucy, Wade & the very funny Doug (Leigh Whannell). The plan? To wait until 3pm when the parents show up to collect their little monsters.
However these zombie kids aren’t mindless & waiting becomes less of an option as the power gets cut & they come under constant attack. Concerns over Clint’s health are assayed by the knowledge that this particular virus only seems to affect children that haven’t entered puberty yet.
It becomes less about surviving & more about getting out of the school. Problems arise between Wade & Clint over Lucy with loyalties & friendships tested.
It sounds like a more serious film but its tongue is firmly planted in its undead cheek. At times it’s a very funny film with several actors really having fun with the whole teacher/student relationship. The film pokes fun at modern life as we see a mother arrive to pick up her child in a gas-guzzling SUV, totally oblivious to the blood-thirsty child that climbs in because she’s on the phone.
The film is a gory number too with plenty of blood & guts thrown about. A particular scene where they continue to play outside but with human remains instead is pretty outstanding (jump-rope becomes intestines etc.).
It’s a fun flick that does lose steam about half-way through becoming more pedestrian & clichéd. The jokes seem to dry up & an attempt to create tension in a protracted vent sequence doesn’t really work that well. By time we’ve got to the finale you’re kind of hoping for something more but it’s clear that it’s not coming.
Cooties is so enjoyable because of its excellent cast & the first half is very funny while maintaining a good level of horror. In the end though I came away a little disappointed that it wasn’t able to maintain that all the way through.
A good stab at the tired zombie genre while also being funny at times. It lacks consistency throughout but it’s hard not to get a kick out of the sight of children ripping their deputy head teacher to bits!