Cooties

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When aspiring writer Clint began a new job substitute teaching, the last thing he expected was to find himself fending off a mass of zombified kids that ate a bad batch of chicken nuggets.

Kids, am I right? I’m asking you because I have no idea what the hell that’s supposed to mean when people say it. The undead can’t really propagate, our reproductive systems rot away until sex becomes all about the fun and less about the reproduction, so I don’t have kids of my own. I prefer the role of cool uncle over parent anyhow, all of the fun of having kids with none of the problems associated with trying to raise them. You can’t beat that deal, but seeing how much of a handful little’uns can be, I have nothing but respect for the world’s parents, living or undead. Though I’m going to go out on a limb and say that zombie parents, or at the very least parents of zombified children, have a bit more difficult time keeping their kids in line. Let’s face it, kids are little assholes, fun little assholes, but little assholes none the less, and this applies to all children. The difference between living kids and those of the undead variety is that at least when a living kid bites another child, you don’t have to explain to the parent of said child that they should really get used to the color green, the occasional smell of decay, and their child’s new all human diet. On top of all of the problematic encounters with other, non-zombified children, there’s also the fact that if you turn zombie as a kid, you’re pretty much stuck as a kid, which means the parent is going to be stuck raising a kid for all eternity, or until the both of them rot away to nothing. I can only imagine how much they might hate kids after an eternity of having a five year old zombie, and yet I’m willing to bet that they still don’t hate kids as much as the person who wrote Cooties.

Our film begins with a shipment of tainted chicken nuggets (if you’ve ever enjoyed the kind of chickenish meat chunks they serve at fast food joints with questionable cleanliness, fast forward through the credits) being sent to an elementary school in the town of Fort Chicken, yes it’s really called Fort Chicken, where hopeful novelist Clint is starting his first day as a substitute teacher. After meeting his fellow teachers and seeing just how hellish the little demons he’ll be teaching are, Clint begins to settle into his new role as public, part time educator. Well, settle in might be a bit too strong because not long after his class starts, one of the students begins to succumb to the effects of eating tainted chicken nuggets, attacks another kid, and escapes before Clint can grab them. Chicken nugget mutate number one begins attacking other children, who in turn attack others, and before long the entire student population has become hell bent on devouring their teachers, forcing them to hole up inside of whatever secure part of the school the faculty can find. The desperate group of bitter educators will have to figure out some way to survive, else they become a better meal than anything served in the cafeteria, worse yet, there’s no telling just how far the infection might have spread.

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{How every teacher’s lounge looks in the morning}

We all have that one friend that just really hates kids, the friend who goes out of his way to let you know just how awful having children is and why you should agree with him. I’m not talking about people who just don’t like kids, children can be a pain in the ass, so I get that. No, I’m talking about the people who just never shut up about how terrible children are, who seem to delight in reminding everyone around them that kids suck and parents are stupid for having them, survival of the species be damned, the person that seems like they might have been attacked by a roving band of feral children and just never got over the experience, to the point they now seem to find little humans threatening. Watching Cooties is like listening to that type for an hour and a half, kind of entertaining at times, but ultimately aggravating. I’m not sure what happened in writer Leigh Whannell’s (Saw, Insidious) life, but I’m guessing he’s not the type that will be volunteering to babysit anyone’s kids any time soon because this movie spends an unnecessary amount of time drilling into the viewer’s head just how terrible kids can be. At times, the film even seemed to be saying that everything that happened to these kids was justified because of how awful they all were.

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{What every person who really hates kids fears}

It was so bad that the zombified kids came across as less undead and more Children of the Corn after too many Redbulls. This is all thanks to the film’s focus on making the kids extreme versions of stereotypical, hyperactive demon spawns instead of trying to make them more zombie like. I can appreciate trying to change up the zombie trope, but this was far from that, it was just pushing the idea that kids are awful, even worse once they become undead. They do occasionally tear and eat human flesh, but they spend most of their time just being tiny assholes. As zombies, they play jokes on the adults, they’re dicks to each other, they tear things apart for no reason, and they love to use body parts for fun (a finger as a tire flicker, intestines as a jump rope, a severed head as a tetherball, etc.). To make matters worse, the movie tries to convince us that the zombies are mindless killers, a character even remarks that they have no reason or intellect and are completely empty inside. This is kind of contradicted when they’re running around plotting their aforementioned antics. Okay, maybe those examples aren’t really plotting, but don’t worry, I have examples for that too, like purposefully shutting off the power, unlocking doors to let other zombies in, and listening in on radio calls so as to plan where they need to go. At one point a zombie even runs around just scratching people to maximize their numbers. None of that sounds like the actions of creatures that have lost all intellect and reason. It might have worked with demonically possessed kids, that at least would have made sense, but as zombies it just furthered the vibe that Cooties was all about how reprehensible kids are.

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{It’s like Gollum all over again}

Despite the failings of the film’s zombies, Cooties isn’t a total wash being as it does have some great effects (minus the shots of CGI blood that are becoming all too common place) and a great cast of characters, with the exception of Frodo himself, Elijah Wood. I don’t think it’s Wood’s fault as much as it’s the fault of a poorly written character who spends a good chunk of the movie whining when he isn’t trying to make sure everyone remembers that he’s writing a book. Cooties loves to play with stereotypes in an attempt to be funny, but often comes across as simply annoying and obvious. The kids are all assholes, the struggling writer has to mention his book at every turn (he actually starts taking notes for the novel in the middle of an attack), the gay character is overly prissy, and the Asian character suddenly knows Kung Fu when things go south. Thankfully, with the exception of Elijah Wood and the zombie kids, the other characters are all a blast and the only thing keeping Cooties from being a waste of time. Rainn Wilson plays a washed up athletics coach who still hasn’t come to grips with his age, Jack McBrayer plays walking gay joke Tracy, Lost’s Jorge Garcia spends most of his screen time stuck inside a van trying to figure out if the zombies are real or if he’s just high, and writer/actor Leigh Whannell is a socially awkward science teacher with a knack for saying the wrong things at the right times. All of them are not only hilarious, but endearing to the viewer as well, and despite everything else that was wrong with Cooties, together they managed to make the movie a far more enjoyable viewing experience than it would have otherwise been.

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{There is a pretty awesome scene with some inventive use of school supplies towards the end}

Still, even with the additions of great characters played by talented and hilarious actors, this isn’t one I’d recommend going out of your way to watch due to the poor writing that kept it from being anything more than a mostly forgettable one time watch. They couldn’t even get their contradictions down, a snack machine still works after the power goes out, a van runs out of gas but continues going anyhow with Elijah Wood remarking later that “It’s really out of gas now,” and the zombies are said to be mindless yet show themselves to be anything but. If it makes its way to you, give it a go, but otherwise there are too many zombie flicks one could be watching to waste your time seeking this out.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion

Starring: Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings, Maniac), Rainn Wilson (The Office, The Boy), Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Goon), Jack McBrayer (30 Rock, Talladega Nights), and Leigh Whannell (Insidious, Saw)

Written By: Leigh Whannell (Insidious, Saw) and Ian Brennan (Scream Queens, Glee)

Released By: SpectreVision, Glacier Films, and Lionsgate

Release Year: 2014

Release Type: Limited Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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