Cooties Isn't Just A Funny Kids-As-Zombies Take. It's Also A Comment On American Education
Directors: Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion.
Writers:Leigh Whannell, and Ian Brennan with story by Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan and Josh C. Waller.
Actors:Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell and Jorge Garcia.
Opens at:Alamo Drafthouse and Studio Movie Grill.
Horror comedies are kinda hitting it out of the park this year.
Maybe it's just a natural progression — a testament to the fact that enough time has passed by where filmmakers are now able to harness the hilarity of horror and action movie tropes into hybrid comedies worthy of being in the pantheon of the greats. I'm not sure about the how. All I know is that, earlier this year, we had the great What We Do In The Shadows and now we have Cooties, which features a stellar, known cast that includes Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Allison Pill and Jack McBrayer.
It's funny, violent, funnily violent and, just like any good comedy should be, endlessly quotable.
Starting off with one of the nastiest intros in recent memory, Cooties shows quickly enough that source of its universe's imminent zombie apocalypse is a contaminated chicken nugget that makes it way into a local elementary school. The movie follows Elijah Wood as Clint, a failed author who moves back home and subs at the elementary that he went to, and the teachers he works with there — characters that range from the douche of a jock gym teacher Wade (Wilson) to the weird but brilliant science teacher Doug (Leigh Whannell).
While not a straight-up parody, Cooties acknowledges the various plot devices and tropes that it's borrowing from. It also mines a lot of humor from the difficulties of being a teacher: You have parents that care more about being on their cell phones than paying attention to their kids to deadly results, not to mention those shithead little kids that are willing to spread life-ruining rumors about teachers just to get away with being a brat in class. There's a lot of social commentary there about how teachers are not at all in control within the modern climate of lawsuit-happy parents and precious snowflake children with peanut allergies.
The whole movie can be seen as an allegorical manifestation of a modern teacher's desperation. I know a few teachers and, through them, I know the following: While there are some amazing things about being a teacher, it can also be draining and potentially frustrating job. There are definitely some scenes in this movie that feel like they were included simply for the sake of catharsis for frustrated teachers.
This cast pulls that all off with aplomb, though: Wilson's socially awkward P.E. teacher steals the movie constantly with his weird comments; Alison Pill's Lucy compels as the cheery and bubbly teacher with a darker side right underneath the surface; and Wood pulls off his The Faculty role reversal here with charm.
In the age of pop-culture zombie saturation, Cooties manages to stay fresh with its ensemble cast's great chemistry, its self-effacing humor and a story that takes some pretty big and surprising risks.
It's the latest entertaining installment in the long ling of great horror comedies that started with Shaun of the Dead ten years ago. Here's hoping it won't be the last.