Friday, 6 November 2015

Cooties

When it comes to hybridising genres, horror and comedy go together like a fish and chips. But for every success, like Evil Dead II or modern cult classic Shaun of the Dead, there are countless disasters like the seemingly endless Scary Movie franchise. But sometimes, and this applies to all genres, a modern classic appears seemingly out of nowhere. With that in mind, where does this film stand?


Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes Cooties, directed by Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott and written by Ian Brennan & Leigh Whannell. When a mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school through a tainted chicken nugget, transforming the children into a feral swarm of cannibalistic savages, a young substitute teacher Clint (Elijah Wood) must lead a motley band of teachers including PE teacher Wade (Rainn Wilson) and Clint’s former high school crush (Alison Pill) in the fight of their lives. If you ignore the fact that the villainous creatures in Cooties are children, the film is a rather unoriginal take on the comedy survival horror genre, with films like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland being the examples to which all more recent attempts are compared to. But despite this lack of originality, Cooties is not a terrible film. It just isn’t very good.


Firstly, the humour is mostly as juvenile and childish as you can probably imagine. One dimensional characters make up the majority of the group, often with one joke each to offer to proceedings - Jack McBrayer is purely there to be the butt of gay jokes (if you’ll pardon the pun), while Jorge Garcia (Hurley from Lost) is there for stoner humour and nothing else – one sequence involves him talking to a giraffe in his pot smoke-filled van. Elijah Wood plays it mostly straight while Rainn Wilson is effectively reprising his role from The Office as Dwight Schrute, albeit a slightly more macho and cocky jock version. It’s unsurprising that the best and arguably funniest roles went to Ian Brennan and Leigh Whannell, the pair who wrote the screenplay. But even then, a lot of their jokes fall flat and left me cringing, wondering how long was left. This is one of the main issues with Cooties, the silly humour that made little attempt to be even remotely sharp for the most part. This isn’t an issue with the actors and actresses themselves, they’re clearly trying and Elijah Wood’s promotional tour for the film shows he’s really passionate about the project. But unfortunately the film’s ridiculous script stops it from being the future cult classic it could’ve been.

Another issue is how the premise itself is handled. Within the first 20 minutes, the novelty of zombie-esque children tearing apart teachers wore off and became repetitive. Sure, the poster or the trailer might make you chuckle – but believe me, any more than that and you’ll be bored. Think of those Grindhouse trailers. While Machete and Hobo With A Shotgun were adapted from them successfully, the charm of the fictitious trailers is that they wouldn’t really work as full films – particularly Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving. Cooties feels like it would feel right at home with these, but as a full film it feels like one stretched joke. The film’s only originality occurs in the grotesque opening credits, which chart a chicken’s journey from walking around a slaughterhouse to being eaten as a nugget in a school. It’s extremely visceral and uncomfortable – vegetarians beware – but as filmmaking goes, it’s brave and well done. Unfortunately though, from here it’s increasingly downhill. And any film that’s highlight is the opening credits in which we see a chicken being pulped, you know the film isn’t exactly a winner.


Perhaps with the right team, it could’ve worked. But in conclusion, Cooties is an underwhelming attempt to make a promising premise into a full length film. There’s nothing fresh or original outside of the concept and, along with the constant childish humour and predictable narrative, this is where the film fails. If you want an easy film to stick on during a night in with a few friends, it’s a pretty daft 80 minutes that will probably seem like Citizen Kane with the right amount of intoxication. But if you’re looking for something new or smart, the DVD’s cover alone should tell you you’re in the wrong place.

Cooties is nothing you haven’t seen before despite the original premise, and earns a disappointing 2/5.

★★☆☆☆

Sam Love


Cooties at CeX


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