The October Diaries: Cooties

Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Jesse, Sean & Christof

October 10th, 2015:

Year: 2014
Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion 
Format: VOD
From IMDB: A mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school, transforming the kids into a feral swarm of mass savages.
Tagline: Circle, circle. Square, square. Now you have it everywhere.


Jesse’s Take:

What I liked:

It must be stated quickly and initially that this is a hilarious movie, the comedy was top notch, and many times jokes were certainly missed due to laughter, which is a huge testament to the film, considering there were only four of us in the room.

Leigh Whannell who I’d never heard of steals just about every scene he is in, and with a level of comedic artistry that I was shocked to find he doesn’t come from a comedy background, but has strong history in horror, as he was the creator the Saw and Insidious franchises.

I loved some of the imagery, even the stuff that I found to be gross as hell, for example there is a brilliant opening scene that follows a dead chicken to the mouth of a student, this was easily the most squirmy I got during the movie, because I can’t stand the sight of raw poultry. There were a couple other scenes that jump out at me, that again, I don’t have the heart to spoil, but were an absolute delight to behold.

I loved the vibe of people stuck in their lives dealing with a crazy out of left field situation, and realizing just how appreciated they were in their employment, but they did it anyways, because it was what they were wired to do. Something I can totally relate too.

What I didn’t like:

The final third of the movie really started to drag, and went a little bit bigger in scope than I feel like they really needed too.

This is something that I never thought I would write, but there were simply put not enough crazy deaths of the young savage students for me, that’s what I’d hoped we would get from the initial premise of basically a pandemic starting with children as patient zero.

Final thoughts:

Funny and worth your time. One of the best, most deeply layered Hobbit jokes, I’ve seen yet. I won’t spoil it. Check it out if you like to laugh or are looking for some gross shit involving crazed young kids putting a hell of a shitty stamp on the worst Monday this group of teachers will ever see.


Christof’s Take:

What I Liked:

The opening credits sequence was horrifying and truly disgusting to watch — partly due to the editing, partly due to the sound design, but mostly due to its content: a depiction of a chicken nugget factory. It honestly made me feel more sick than anything we’ve watched so far.

And this ushered in one of my favorite premises for a zombie flick: a contaminated nugget is shipped from factory to school cafeteria where it turns one of the little kiddies into the undead, which leads to a neat little trapped-on-school-grounds canvas to get playful with.

The movie had a pretty respectable sense of humor, which is good, because it’s a horror-comedy. The cast is a mostly-enjoyable one to see thrust into zombie-survival mode. However, Leigh Whannell is the highlight in the specific area of making me giggle/chuckle/guffaw/slap my knee.

There is also some well-crafted gore. Particularly in the playground montage, which is the sequence that would likely be center-stage in a horror-comedy Venn diagram, were someone to take the time to make one for Cooties.

What I Didn’t Like:

The last third of the movie.

It was fine, just unfulfilling. It’s somewhat common for either a horror or a comedy flick to gradually turn into a bit of slog toward the end, so maybe Cooties had the odds against it. It just couldn’t keep its steam. 

The humor spent a lot of time checking in on itself, which sometimes paid off, but it often didn’t work for me. One particular call-back that was really meant to stick the landing instead retroactively soured my previous enjoyment of the joke to which it was calling back.

Specifically, the ending was unsatisfying. It reached an unfortunate synthesis; it seemed to drag on, yet also seemed to be cut short. I’m not sure at what phase of production this happened — writing, shooting, editing — but someone rushed the ending, possibly thinking, “That’s sort of like an ending! Weeee! We’re done!”

Final Thoughts:

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it did have the aesthetic stamina to carry its initial zest to the finish line. Maybe I’m just cranky from watching all these new horror movies with their wham-bam shot-lengths and their whiz-bang computered effects, and just — well, gosh, who can keep up?!

Overall, it’s a solid effort worthy of at least one viewing.



Sean’s Take:

What I liked:

The premise. Tainted chicken nuggets being delivered to a grade school is a perfect reason to have children be the primary carriers of this particular type of hyper-rabies. Using the soft-edges of an elementary school as ground-zero for the outbreak, and having the virus only truly effect those who haven’t gone through puberty, helped establish fun parameters for the characters to play with and ridiculous obstacles for them overcome.

Stage Fright, from a few days ago, did a great job of this as well. When the script goes the extra mile to establish even the most flimsy attempts at propulsive action we get to avoid the type of horror that features repetitious sequences of people running down hallways and upstairs without intent.

Allison Pill had a great little rant toward the end that helped flesh-out her character in a wonderful way. Some actors didn’t get quite enough to play with (Jack McBrayer and Nasim Pedrad) but it was nice, for once, to see the female lead get to reveal more than one facet of their personality.

What I didn’t like:

Had a little home-stretch fatigue. The bright and shiny buoyancy of the first two-thirds deflated a bit by the end when it tried to up the ante a bit too much. When you raise the stakes on characters written to be broadly comedic (and when most of the deaths are greeted with a chuckle) you don’t always get to feel the elevated tension because you haven’t invested real emotion in their fate. Plus, the comedy has to take a back-seat to plot mechanics, so you don’t get to chuckle as much as you were earlier either.

For a movie as over-the-top as this one, I could’ve used more explosive moments of conflict. But I was satisfied throughout, regardless of any soft criticisms I might have felt.

Final thoughts:

I had a pretty great time with this one. I’ve grown to really respect what Spectrevision, the production company responsible for Cooties co-founded by Cooties star Elijah Wood — has been up to lately. Between this and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Cooties featured a cameo by the poster for that one) it’s clear Elijah Wood and his talented buddies feel a duty to produce legitimate pieces of genre fare. That deserves a twenty-one pumpkin salute. 




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