First off, Cooties is one of my favorite types of films. Not horror. Not comedy. Not action horror comedy, though it is all those things. (Actio-horredy?) No, there’s another reason I love this movie.
It’s ninety minutes long. I’m already smiling.
I’m not sure what happened with Cooties and why it wasn’t a bigger movie. Writing credits include Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan, and Josh C. Waller. Directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion. The movie premiered at Sundance in 2014 and according to Wikipedia, was only released on 29 screens, earning about fifty grand stateside, while also being released on video on demand.
And that’s a shame, I feel, because I think the movie could have done a lot better if given a wider release. It’s a fun, funny film that does a lot with a little. I admit, there are some things that probably wouldn’t go over well with a larger audience, like when one of the adults beats a fourth-grader to death with a fire hydrant. You know, stuff like that. But don’t worry, these kids are blood-crazed zombies, incapable of being cured.
“I’m giving you kids an ‘F’ for ‘fuck you’!”
First things first, as the credits roll, we’re treated to an assembly line in a factory, watching a chicken go from being alive to being a chicken nugget. It’s killed, bloody head hacked off, plucked, and ground into that famous pink paste that’s oh so delicious. We then follow a disgusting, diseased-looking nugget, all the way through packaging and shipping, through the deep fryer, and straight into a little girl’s mouth.
(Looking at this picture makes me gag. I gag easily. In fact, I’ve done it twice now. I’m so sorry.)
(Okay, now three times.)
GAG COUNTER: 3
Then, we meet our would-be hero, Clint (Elijah Wood). Clint is one of my least favorite character tropes, that of an aspiring writer. I’m not sure what gets my goat about writers writing about writers writing but I have a goat and it’s definitely been got. He’s writing a book about a man who buys a boat and the boat turns out to be haunted. As stated by another character, it sounds like a mix between Christine and Speed 2, and is called Keel Them All.
(Which, by the way, a haunted boat that explodes if you go under 55 mph… if they ever make that movie, I’m all in.)
Each character has just enough quirk to be funny for the small amount of time they’re allowed to shine. There’s overly-enthusiastic Lucy (Alison Pill), awkward and creepy sex ed teacher Doug (Whannell), prone to hysteria Tracy (Jack McBrayer), mace-carrying, Christ-spouting Rebekkah (Nasim Pedrad), drugged-out crossing guard Rick (Jorge Garcia) and overly compensating gym coach Wade (Rainn Wilson).
“If my butthole had a butthole, that’s what you’d look like.”
As the bell rings, the teachers scoot off to class and we get a look at the nightmare children that are going to have to be dealt with throughout this movie. Two such asshole children bully a little girl because she looks like this:
Pustules, runny nose… she’s either unlucky enough to have chicken pox AND the flu, or she ate the tainted nugget. (By the way, “Tainted Nugget” was my nickname in high school.)
It’s not long before the teasing turns sour as the girl leaps across the desk and bites a huge chunk out of the bully’s face. Here is the start of the spread. Not long later, with all the kids at recess, in a concentrated area, the cooties spread like wildfire.
It takes a little bit for the adults to figure out what’s going on. Most of the adults anyway. Rick, the crossing guard, who did a bunch of mushrooms in his van with the intention of tripping the day away, has an unfortunate front row seat to the schoolyard carnage.
Once the adults are hip to what’s going down, they lock themselves in a classroom and take stock of the situation. They were lucky enough to find one kid who was uninfected, Calvin, a little boy who spent recess inside studying for his English exam. Calvin joins the crew in their lockdown. It’s then that they realize something horrifying…
Clint was scratched earlier on the playground. He’s not feeling well, nausea, cramps… He’s been infected! Clint’s thrown into quarantine (locked alone in the next room) so as to keep the rest of them safe.
What are the kids doing now? The kids are running the school. They have total control and are reveling in their newfound reign. We got kids jumping rope with intestines —
We got decapitated teacher tether-heads —
We got it all. And these kids aren’t mindless blood seekers. They remain cognizant enough to open doors, destroy cell phones, and shriek loudly like slaughtered hogs.
So, you know, like normal kids.
Meanwhile, the awkward and creepy Doug goes into the quarantine room with Clint in order to find out more about the virus. While there, Doug inspect Clint’s “fluids” (which include diarrhea, vomiting, and anal leakage) with his bare hands.
GAG COUNTER: 4, 5
There’s a last bit of hope as the teachers go to the roof of the building and try to flag down some of the arriving parents as they come to pick up their flesh-eating kids, which, predictably, goes south as the first mom to arrive is eviscerated.
“They go right for the face!”
But even the roof isn’t safe because a kid jumps at them from a nearby tree! But don’t fret, she’s not infected. The teachers safely pull the girl, Tamra, up onto the roof but the bad news is the infected kids see this happen and get the idea to vault up the tree and onto the roof, forcing our heroes back inside. When one of the infected catches up and is about to eat creepy Doug, Wade the gym teacher bashes the kid’s brains out with a fire hydrant. (As stated previously.)
What’s funny about this (I know, it’s not funny) but what’s funny about this, is here is a sampling of some of the reactions to seeing a grown man pound a kid’s head into the floor.
In the downbeat of everyone coming to terms with the pedicide they just witnessed, Creepy Doug believes he knows the reason why Clint and Tamra didn’t turn. It’s because the virus doesn’t affect anyone who’s already gone through puberty. That’s good to know. At least they won’t turn into little cannibal kids. Now, all they have to worry about is the being eaten alive part. Which is about to happen when Kung Fu Janitor™ shows up and leads them down into the basement, where he lives.
Now, when I say he’s a Kung Fu Janitor™, I mean he’s a janitor, Hatachi, (Peter Kwong) who knows martial arts.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, “So much crazy has happened, this movie has to almost be over by now, surely.”
“That was just half-time, baby.”
So, now they’re safely down in the basement. All good, right? Wrong. Because now Calvin, the one unbitten, unscratched pre-pubescent in the group, is going into diabetic shock and needs some sugar. Something you might find in the teacher’s lounge vending machine. But it’s way too dangerous to roam the halls of the school looking for snacks. There’s got to be another way…
Someone can crawl through the vent and get into the teacher’s lounge and get back safely with the life-saving chocolate bar. But who’s small enough to do it?
Good ol’ Clint goes into the air duct to make the journey to the teacher’s lounge. After having a fight with her boyfriend, Wade, Lucy decides to go with Clint and help, because she hates all the other teachers and they’re all going to die anyway.
Operation Candy Bar goes off without a hitch.
Haha! Not really. While securing said candy bar, they are discovered and as they crawl as fast as they can to get back to the basement, the infected kids get into the air ducts with them. Clint and Lucy throw the candy bar to safety and split off, finding refuge in the library.
This is when the real conversations happen. The facades are dropped and the skeletons come out of the closet. Clint hasn’t been living the successful writer’s life in New York as he previously stated. He’s been teaching, a job that obviously feels demeaning for him to admit, as he refuses to many times prior to this moment. But that kind of honesty makes Lucy go a big rubbery one and they do some kissy-face before realizing now probably isn’t the time or the place for a make out sesh.
But they’re still trapped and need a way out. The only thing they have is a bevy of kids’ backpacks. What could they possibly contain except bottles and bottles of Ritalin and Adderall?
“Nap time, motherfuckers.”
With the kids outside the library out cold due to chomping scattered pills, Clint and Lucy meet up with the rest of the team, who have outfitted themselves with makeshift weapons, culminating in Wade strapping a whole damn pitching machine to himself.
If this wasn’t enough, his eighteen regional championship trophies, three MVPs, and one state championship ring proves he means business.
Now, it’s on.
It is a battle for the ages. People will speak of it for years to come. But alas, it’s not a happy ending for all of our heroes, as one of them sacrifices himself so that the others can make it out alive.
The others, free from the town of Fort Chicken (I forgot to tell you the town is called Fort Chicken), eventually find themselves in neighboring Danville, where they promptly run out of gas.
“Actually, the correct term is pandemic.”
From some TVs on in a storefront window, our heroes see it’s not just Fort Chicken (I’m serious, it’s called Fort Chicken) where the virus broke out… it’s everywhere. Indiana… Ohio… even in Danville, which means…
You’d think someone would be assigned to keep lookout behind them but they must have a lot on their plates. Our group is chased into one of those big warehouses that have been turned into a birthday playplace with inflatable castles and ropes and slides and ball pits, everything a kid could want. Are they safe? Not with this little amount of time left in the movie.
The lights come on and our heroes find themselves right smack dab in the middle of two stories of ravenous kids, ready to munch some faces. Just when things are looking like it’s come to the end for our heroes, who should show up but the man himself — Wade!
“Did someone order a badass?”
Turns out Wade’s not so dead after all. Wade shows up with Rick the crossing guard, soaks the place in gasoline, and lights the mother fucker up, burning alive dozens of innocent children. I mean, murderous zombies. And so, they drive off into the distance, in search of a magical, mythical place where there are no children.
I hope that such a place exists.