Directors: Jonathan Millott & Cary Murnion
Writers: Leigh Whannell & Ian Brennan
Cast: Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Jorge Garcia, Nasim Pedrad, Rainn Wilson.
Circle circle dot dot, now you have a cooties shot.
What happens when one of the writers of Glee and the writer of horror films like Saw and Insidious get together and write a screenplay? Well… It looks like we have an answer to this question, even if it is a question nobody would ever have thought (or dared) to ask. Add two directors who have no previous directing experience (at least according to iMDB) and you have this uneven but not completely horrible mess of a film.
The plot of Cooties is simple enough. After eating a rather questionable chicken nugget in the school cafeteria, an elementary school aged girl gets ill and this disease transforms her into a zombie-esque being whose mission is to infect other children and together they become intent on killing and eating any adult within sight. A group of teachers in said elementary school find themselves trapped in the chaos and must band together, despite their differences, in order to survive the kid rendered apocalypse.
The cast is led by Elijah Wood, who plays Clint Hadson, a former student of the Indiana-based elementary school returning as a substitute teacher after failing to become a respected writer in New York City. Teaching at the same school is his crush Lucy (Alison Pill) and her brutish gym teacher boyfriend Wade (Rainn Wilson), along with a cast of misfits including the likes of Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Jorge Garcia (Lost), and Nasim Pedrad (SNL). It’s an interesting choice to collect all these usual supporting actors and force them all, at the same time, in the foreground of the movie because this decision leads to some of the biggest issues with the film as a whole. All these actors are known for their larger than life personas and their acting is not known to be very subtle, and when each character is zanier, weirder, and more over the top than the next (leaving Wood to attempt to anchor the film all on his own) there is absolutely nothing to ground the film, which vastly and irreparably affects the tone. The movie is anything but scary, like not even a little bit, in spite of some pretty harrowing and gruesome scenes and images. Filmed in such a farcical and ridiculous manner with such buffoon characters there is nothing scary for the audience, which wouldn’t be a problem if the film were really funny, which unfortunately it’s not. There are a few amusing scenes and a couple of jokes that do land, but they are few and far between. Add in some really unnecessary homophobic and racist jokes that not only fall flat, but are also just plain bizarre and out of place, and the movie leads to groans instead of guffaws.
The premise had a lot of promise, and all the actors were really game and up for anything, it’s just that it never came together as it should have. Edited down for length and with more clever writing, this could have made a pretty brilliant episode of Community, but as a feature length film it just doesn’t work. Too bad that cooties shot I got all those years ago didn’t immunize me from this below average movie.