Cooties was a rough start, but a smooth finish. I really enjoy the standard zombie survival portion, but the lead in felt like it took forever. Which it really doesn’t, it just feels that way. I’ve seen comparisons between this and Zombieland. Out of the two, Zombieland is far and away the better film. Other than zombies and both being a horror-comedies, the films have little to nothing in common. That said, Cooties isn’t a bad film. In fact, it’s kind of a good one.
The film owns with a sick chicken being slaughtered and turned into chicken nuggets. Which are sent off into the world to be consumed by kids like Shelly (Sunny May Allison). Which turns her into a zombie, though not instantly. Clint (Elijah Wood) is a struggling writer, who is also a substitute teacher. After moving back to his home town, Clint gets hired to substitutes at Fort Chicken Elementary School. Where his high school sweetheart Lucy (Alison Pill) works. The two catch-up and share some chemistry, when Wade (Rainn Wilson) the PE Teacher and Lucy’s husband comes in and gets jealous. During class, one of Clint’s students, full on zombie Shelly attacks the class bully Patriot (Cooper Roth). Biting Patriot’s face and scratching Clints arm before escaping by running outside. Patriot is sent to the nurse and Clint continues with his day. During recess, newly transformed Patriot attacks and infects the other kids, each turning faster than the last. Soon the child zombies descend upon the teachers killing them until Clint, Lucy, Wade along with Tracy (Jack McBrayer), Doug (Leigh Whanell) and Rebekka (Nasim Pedrad) and students Calvin (Armani Jackson) and Tamara (Morgan Lily) try to survive the zombie onslaught.
The strong comedic cast sets the tone for this film as more a comedy than a horror film. Even when Cooties tries to get a strong sense of Dread, the constant comedy ruins its chances of building on up. Their are a handful of suspenseful moments, and some great references to the tropes within the genre. But Cooties never come across as foreboding and doesn’t inspire any sense of fright or unease after or while viewing.
So, while not the best horror film. It is great if you want a horror film that has a sizable amount of gore, but is just as sizable with the laughs. It’s really the great comedic cast against Elijah Wood’s straight man that makes this film work. The characters are all wacky and strange, but at the same times charming and harmless. Which is endearing allowing you to actually like the characters.
The dread location works great. I prefer location based zombie films, ie being trapped in a house/mall/military compound/what ever vs. the open road where large distances are traversed in a post zombie apocalypse. So I really liked the school and is the classic backdrop to the students vs teachers motif.
Final thoughts, I really liked this film… once it got going. As I feel the lead up is a little slow. But once all the kids turn into zombies and Cooties blossoms into the zombie film is was meant to be, it gets really good. The writing is great, the acting is hilarious and the zombies are gory. Other than the slow start my only complaint is Clint’s character gets really annoying about his book, real fast. 8/10