COOTIES

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount

For a while – maybe for its first thirty minutes or so – it really looks as if Cooties has nailed it. Comedy horror is a tough one to pull off, the problem often being that neither the comedy or the horror gets a fair crack of the whip and the audience is left with something which is neither one thing nor the other but an uneasy self-conscious amalgam of the two. Cooties’ robust, energetic first act suggests that here’s another comedy horror – perhaps the first since the still-sublime Shaun of the Dead – which has hit the jackpot and found a way to consistently tickle the funny bone whilst sending the odd grim shiver up and down the spine. But then, disappointingly, it seems to run out of steam until it eventually runs aground.

It’s a shame because this is a great cast – Elijah (Wilfred) Wood alongside other US TV comedy favourites Rainn (The Office) Wilson and Jack (30 Rock) Macbrayer – and a promising storyline. Wood plays would-be horror writer Clint Hadson, who turns up for work as a supply teacher in the elementary school in his home town of Fort Chicken. The film’s at its sharpest here; Clint’s fellow teachers, including his ex-school squeeze Lucy (Alison Pill), are a fiercely quirky bunch and the dialogue and characterisation sings like the best US sitcoms. Meanwhile, school pupil Shelly has inadvertently eaten a chicken nugget infected with a gooey virus and by lunchbreak she’s running around the schoolyard biting chums and teachers alike and turning them into feral killing machines. Clint and co eventually set aside their own insecurities and inadequacies and realise what’s happening. They barricade themselves in the school as the zombified kids try to batter their way in.

This is where Cooties (it’s a generic American term for an imaginary lurgi spread between young kids) starts to go off the boil. Once the virus takes hold the story just drifts into typical zombie apocalypse territory, and while it’s still patchily funny it’s suddenly more concerned with the fight for survival rather than focussing on a group of misfits trading clever banter. Wilson steals the show as the swaggering PE teacher Wade, Macbrayer is wasted as teacher Tracey Lacey, but Leigh (Insidious franchise) Whannell stands out and keeps the humour flag flying as socially-inept Doug. There are a couple of good ideas thrown into the mix – the virus only infects the prepubescent – and the movie earns an extra mark or two  just for turning tiny kids into zombies and having the balls to kill them off in graphic fashion.

Cooties sets itself up for a sequel but in all honesty we’ve probably seen the best of this one in its often laugh out-loud first half-hour – watch out for a great Hobbit gag involving Wood. It’s no comedy classic and it ultimately fails to fulfil its potential, but despite its shortcomings Cooties is certainly worth catching.

Special Features: Elijah Wood interview

COOTIES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: BY JONATHAN MILOTT, CAREY MURNION / SCREENPLAY: LEIGH WHANNELL, IAN BRENNAN / STARRING: ELIJAH WOOD, ALISON PILL, RAINN WILSON, LEIGH WHANNELL, JACK MACBRAYER / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 12TH

 


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