October's Daily Horror Dose 4: Retaliation- Day #11 - Cooties

More zombies! I swear I’m not planning this. Cooties just happened to be the rare horror movie that I was able to convince my wife we should watch and when that happens, you don’t delay. You act immediately before minds are changed.

At the very least, Cooties offers an original take on the zombie genre. Here we have Dawn of the Dead inside an elementary school. Contaminated chicken nuggets have caused the children to turn into flesh eating zombies and the teachers have to fight back in order to get out of the school. It’s a very simple premise, but that one that either sells you immediately, or ensures you will never set foot anywhere near this movie. I was all the way in.

The cast is impressive and nearly everyone is somebody recognizable. Elijah Wood is the lead as an aspiring writer taking a supply teaching job at his hometown school. I continue to respect Elijah Wood’s consistent attempts to take on oddball projects. Rainn Wilson is the asshole gym teacher, Leigh Whannel (also co-writer) is the weirdo science teacher, Nasim Pedrad is…..a teacher of something, and we have also have Jack McBrayer, Jorge Garcia, Alison Pill and probably even a few more that I’m currently forgetting. It’s such a great group of character actors that it’s a shame the movie is just a little better than it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. But I still can’t help but feel they don’t fully execute on that terrific initial premise. It’s of course a horror comedy, but neither genre shines through brightly enough. Outside of one sequence set inside the school’s air ducts, the focus isn’t really on the horror elements. There’s a couple of jump scares and an early promise of strong gore that is never fully delivered on. Besides that, the movie definitely leans harder into comedy and while there are certainly some good laughs to be had, it’s not quite as many as you would hope given the insanity taking place here. Wilson definitely has the best lines and there are a handful of good bits from the other characters, but I still couldn’t help but feel like this cast was a little wasted overall.

This is a strange thing to say for a movie about a group of adults facing off against flesh eating children, but I think Cooties plays things a little too safe. It felt like they came up with this extreme idea, then made sure to execute on it in a way that would be shocking, but not TOO shocking. As with Dead Rising, I feel if you’re going to do this, you have to really embrace it. Go as far down the rabbit hole as possible because let’s face it, a movie with this plot is likely never going to be made again.

There’s a lot of promise in Cooties that is only partly lived up to. It’s a fun movie but nothing more. It could have been a unique, horror classic as it presents a truly outrageous plot that could make for a variety of insane set pieces and developments. Instead we have a decent horror comedy that will likely slip through the cracks.

Someone does call Wood’s character a hobbit. So you know it’s probably a pretty good movie right there.