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John’s Horror Corner: Cooties (2015), an excellently flesh-eating horror comedy that is as fresh as the flesh it infects.

October 2, 2015

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MY CALL: Fresh, hilarious and smartly scripted, this film was a joy. The gore, humor and story fall shy of Shaun of the Dead, but this horror comedy remains something very impressive. MOVIES LIKE Cooties: Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009), Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010), Zombeavers (2014) and Love in the Time of Monsters (2015).

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Within minutes of hitting play I already love this film. It’s well-scored, much like some dark children’s fantasy in fact, and visually visceral for reasons having nothing to do with conventional gore. During the playfully-fonted opening credits we enjoy a serious sequence depicting a chicken factory of sorts complete with neck-breaking, rich bright colors as a fly defecates on the chicken carcass (hinted as the cooties virus introduction), limbs being clipped with sheers and separating organs while music reminiscent of child-like discovery plays in the background. From the slaughterhouse and factory, to the fryer and the elementary school cafeteria we are welcomed to Cooties with a sense of jovial adventure.

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When we meet Clint (Elijah Wood; Maniac, The Faculty) and his mother (Kate Flannery), they instantly resurrect an almost resentfully nostalgic and entertaining dynamic. Poor Clint is a good-intentioned, likable loser substitute-teaching at his elementary alma mater which is now overrun with over-entitled, legally empowered kids with profanely bad attitudes. These kids are heinous and say some truly awful things (that made me laugh out loud). For example, “If my butthole had a butthole, it would look like you…You look like you have Chicken Pox, if Chicken Pox was made out of hemorrhoids.” Yeah, kids are adorable aren’t they?

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A sort of viral, flesh-eating zombie outbreak ensues when a pig-tailed patient zero eats a contaminated chicken nugget and bites off a 10-yr old douchebag’s cheek. After opening with loads of awkward humor, the film now builds comedic inertia in the form of the most forgivably zany mayhem of violence against children accompanied by a storm of snippy quips which will draw smiles until the movie’s end. Why is this violence against children so acceptable? Because it’s completely cartoonish.

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Wonderfully written by Leigh Whannell (Saw 1-3, Dead Silence, Insidious 1-3) and directed by a pair of newcomers, Cooties is as fresh as the flesh it infects. Everything about this movie is done well: the camera-work, the writing, the characters and the decisions they make, the story, the humor, the gore and the acting. I rarely get to say this about horror, but I just loved these characters. Jorge Garcia (Lost) is a joy as the drug-using crossing guard; Leigh Whannell is delightfully awkward as a socially disconnected science teacher; Alison Pill (Snowpiercer) is the sweet, unavailable love interest; and Rainn Wilson (Six Feet Under, Super) and his handlebar mustache dominate the screen as the jockish gym teacher.

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Here’s Leigh Whannell.  Everyone had show-stealing lines and he wrote himself some, too.

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Everyone had something valuable to offer! This goes doubly for the filmmakers on the other side of the camera of this film which knows exactly what it is in all the best ways. Deviating from recent horror comedies like Zombeavers (2014) or Love in the Time of Monsters (2015), Cooties delivers a high quality product whose re-watchability does not rely on alcohol; rising far above the likes of “fun B-movies.”

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This is more than a B-movie, but falls shy of the theatrical greatness of Shaun of the Dead. We have a disembowelment-dismemberment scene that tips its hat to Dawn of the Dead (1978), Rainn Wilson goes all-state football (complete with spins, fakes, clotheslines and spins) through a horde of children, and a guy dies right after saying “Follow me, I do CrossFit!” The humor is sharp and abundant, right up until Rainn goes Rambo, the janitor turns out to be a Japanese martial arts master, and they medicate the ravenous kids with Ritalin and Adderall.

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It’s surprisingly satisfying seeing teachers kick the crap out of these kids and, just as we’d want it, Rainn Wilson gets all of the most dramatic scenes. He may hog them, but he owns them.  We even enjoy some jabs at the state of overly anti-sexual-harassment workplaces, political control over teaching evolution versus religion, and contemporary views on cellphones in schools.

I was impressed. Everyone should see and enjoy this movie. Think of it as Shaun of the Dead’s younger brother; he shows loads of promise but hasn’t fully grown up yet…but just wait until he does.

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Trackbacks

  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. John’s Horror Corner: The Final Girls (2015), an excellent horror satire and a clever slasher metamovie. | Movies, Films & Flix
  3. John’s Horror Corner: The Last Witch Hunter (2015), the story of an immortal Vin Diesel hacking his way through monsters and spells with bad one-liners and a flaming sword. | Movies, Films & Flix
  4. John’s Horror Corner: House of 1000 Corpses (2003), Rob Zombie’s sick experiment in extreme cinema. | Movies, Films & Flix
  5. John’s Horror Corner: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), just loads of awesome raunchy gory fun! | Movies, Films & Flix
  6. John’s Horror Corner: Ava’s Possessions (2015), humorously addressing what happens “after” an exorcism…like support groups and warrants. | Movies, Films & Flix
  7. John’s Horror Corner: Deathgasm (2015), the New Zealand horror comedy where Ash vs the Evil Dead brilliantly meets Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. | Movies, Films & Flix
  8. John’s Horror Corner: Zoombies (2016), a low budget zombedy using the Jurassic World playbook. | Movies, Films & Flix
  9. John’s Horror Corner: Burying the Ex (2014), a horror comedy RomCom zombedy about an undead love triangle. | Movies, Films & Flix
  10. John’s Horror Corner: Saw (2004), James Wan’s progenitor of modern torture porn is all about the characters! | Movies, Films & Flix
  11. John’s Horror Corner: Saw II (2005), more brutal, more death traps, more ominous tapes, more Jigsaw! | Movies, Films & Flix
  12. John’s Horror Corner: Saw III (2006), proving that torture porn sequels can have good writing AND loads of lingering, gross, chunky gore! | Movies, Films & Flix
  13. John’s Horror Corner: Saw IV (2007), very ambitious story with lackluster execution and so-so death traps—my least favorite of the franchise so far. | Movies, Films & Flix

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