I’ve continued my streak of new movies with Cooties, which came out last month in theaters and VOD. I first heard about it nearly two years ago, when it was prepping for Sundance, so I’ve been waiting for a while– thankfully, it was worth the wait.
The basis plot is this: tainted chicken nuggets are fed to a child at a school, who then becomes a murderous rampaging cannibalistic monster-demon. She spreads the disease to other children, who then all eat the adults. The movie follows a group of teachers as they try to avoid being eaten, and escape the hordes of tiny murder-cannibals.
The cast of teachers is incredible. Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Nasim Pedrad, and Leigh Whannell. Elijah Wood plays a substitute teacher who’s moved back in with his mom to work on his book (a terrible possessed-boat horror novel called Keel Them All). Alison Pill is charming and fantastic, fully justifying the fact that I’ve been kind-of in love with her since Scott Pilgrim. Rainn Wilson is absolutely hilarious as the PE teacher, and Nasim Pedrad is great as the conservative weirdo.
Truly, however, the standout for me was Leigh Whannell. Known primarily as a writer– he wrote the first three Saw movies, Dead Silence, Insidious, et cetera, but he can actually act. In Cooties, he plays the science teacher, Doug, who had a traumatic brain injury as a child, and now lacks any social skills, leading him to make a whole bunch of weird honest blurtings that offset the potential terror. For example, after a heart-wrenching and meaningful monologue from another character, Doug says “I always wanted to have sex with a prostitute who was non-white.”
When Elijah Wood’s character gets attacked by a murderous child:
This is only part of what he hollers during that scene. Other tidbits: “He’s gonna bite your face!” and “You’ll look like that chimp woman!”
Whannell and Rainn Wilson steal the show. I watched this with Bill, and when I commented about how impressed I was with Wilson’s acting, Bill said, “Yeah, I really like him when he gets to not be Dwight.”
I should note also that I tried to watch this once before, at dinner time, and got about three minutes into it before needing to stop. The first three minutes are a straight-up disgust-fest taking place in a chicken factory farm, as the audience watches a chicken from the moment of procurement, through killing and butchering, and completing the nuggetization process.
This time, I made sure it was the top feature of a double-bill, and that dinner would be served after this flick.
In terms of overarching plot, this movie is completely by-the-numbers: a group of heroic teachers strive to outsmart, outrun, and outlast a group of zomboids. Where it really sings is in the characters and in the humor– the dialogue in this thing is on point, from the little kids being assholes, to Elijah Wood being obsessed with his (terrible) novel and being a narcissist-writer archetype, to the little kids themselves. I can’t really dump too much dialogue into this review, so I’ll just urge you to see it, and then give you a couple visual gags that I thought worked.
There’s a point about halfway through the movie where the weird cannibal zomboid kids are all on the playground, and there aren’t any adults to murder and eat, so they resort to playing some games. Up until this point, the only games we’ve seen the kids playing involve their phones, so it’s pretty hilarious to suddenly have this montage of new-age kids playing old-school games with gory components.
And perhaps best of all:
This movie was a darkly funny evil-child movie that worked perfectly for me. If you need further details to sell you this movie– which you shouldn’t– I’ll just mention that at one point, Rainn Wilson picks up a small child and uses it as a bludgeon against other small children.
You should probably see this movie, if that sounds hilarious to you (and it should).