When horror and comedy meet, it takes some great horror and some hilarious comedy to make things work. Thankfully, this occurs in the hysterical “Cooties”, making its Canadian premiere at the 2015 edition of Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival. The fact that Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson star in this movie makes it all the more amazing.
Clint (Wood), a 30ish, struggling writer who attempts to make some money as a substitute teacher while he writes his novel, has moved back to his mom’s place. He fills in for a teacher at a local elementary school, meeting a fellow teacher who was a girl with whom he previously went to school with. They seem to hit it off rather well, until he meets her douchebag/physical educator of a boyfriend, Wade (Wilson). While small talk develops in the teacher’s lounge (and you’ll see that small talk is an issue for the socially awkward science teacher (Leigh Whannell; co-creator of the “Saw” and “Insidious” franchises, who also starred in the “Insidious” movies)), one girl, who seems very drowsy and covered in scabs, has bitten one of her fellow classmates. Something in the cafeteria’s chicken nuggets is wrong. Dead wrong. During recess, things get out of control when students begin to bite and scratch at each other, spreading the rabid-like infection. It’s now time for the faculty to fend off the crazed, senseless young ones and barricade themselves into the school. Hilarity and smashing of children ensues.
As a physical education teacher myself, I loved the setting and atmosphere of this movie, as I experience it every day. When Rainn Wilson gives a speech, mid-movie, how teachers are underpaid and lacking respect from society had me smiling in satisfaction. However, that’s simply an undertone of the movie as we focus on survival of the teachers, which is sometimes what we teachers truly go through. The movie is not afraid to have the over-confident phys. Ed. Teacher clock some delirious kids in the face, have Elijah Wood be called a “Hobbit” as an insult, and treat the infected children as zombies rather than the “untouchables” of horror movies.
A great cast helps this movie come together. Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson are superb actors on their own. Leigh Whannell (who co-wrote “Cooties”, by the way) perfectly portrays a socially inapt teacher; Jack McBrayer (TV’s “30 Rock”; “Talladega Nights”) plays his usual effeminate character, this time as an art teacher; Nasim Pedrad (former “Saturday Night Live” cast member) is the bitchy teacher nobody likes; and Jorge Garcia (TV’s “Lost”) is the mushroom-ingesting crossguard.
The only thing I could point out that could have made the movie a notch better is that the movie could have had a whole lot more gore. If they’re going to allow themselves to smash zombified-children in the face to defend themselves and have the science teacher dissect one of them, they could have said “Screw it!” and gone all out on the comedic-gore, “Braindead” style.
Despite this detail, this is definitely a movie to check out, if not simply to see Rainn Wilson cornered by rabid 10 year-olds and declare: “You can’t eat the teachers, man!” “Cooties” is rewarded with an admirable 4 stars out of 5.