A virus that spreads like a wild fire, turning its victims into feral flesh eaters isn’t exactly new territory for the genre, but when those infected can only be little kids, it makes you wonder how we haven’t seen it sooner. If there’s anything good coming out of the fact that there’s dozens of zombie movies a year, it’s that it forces filmmakers to be creative and come up with new ideas the genre hasn’t seen yet—Cooties. Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s zombie comedy kicks off when a mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school, transforming the kids into a blood-covered mass of savages.
Elijah Wood and his production company SpectreVision have single-handedly taken over the genre in the last few years, turning out films that push it into new territory. From last year’s breakout gem A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night to this year’s psycho-drama The Boy and now Cooties, SpectreVision is leaving an indelible mark on the genre and they’re just getting started. Their latest, Cooties, is a masterful blend of blood, guts and humor, as an unlikely group of teachers find themselves at the center of a feral kid shitstorm thanks to a bad chicken nugget (aren’t they all?).
Where the film really succeeds is in its ability to create a familiar scenario and turn it on its head, but it doesn’t just do that by simply changing a bunch of kids into monsters. It’s all in the execution, which really brings this film to life by tying a ragtag group of teachers together to fight a swarm of tiny, flesh eating children. It’s a wonderfully deranged setup and it might just be the funniest movie of the year. That’s not even the best part, though.
The main focus here is on the teachers, who happen to be having one hell of a Monday morning, and I really liked that the film gave each of its characters a moment to shine; none of them feel like an afterthought or an excuse to pad the body count. But because they’re all so different from one another, watching them work together to take on a bunch of pint-sized monsters was a ton of fun, especially once it started to rain blood and guts.
What’s great about Cooties is that there’s constantly something happening, whether its moments of straight-up horror—what’s creepier than a bunch of little kids tearing someone to pieces?—or the hilarious bickering between the teachers, bouncing room to room trying to avoid becoming a happy meal. Even the few quiet moments in the film are met with a ridiculous scenario or a character saying something absurdly funny (thanks to Rainn Wilson and Leigh Whannell).
And despite the majority of the film taking place within the walls of a school, it never feels small or claustrophobic, instead it uses each new room to create layers of atmosphere. Cooties is a lightning quick, bloody good time that makes a worn out genre feel new again. It’s a monster movie where a bunch of little kids will eat your face off and jump rope with your intestines, which is pretty awesome in my book.