The plot revolves around a contaminated batch of chicken nuggets – which spreads a virus borne out of the wrong fly meeting the wrong chicken – infecting a small girl who then turns into a rage-filled zombie monster. She goes around infecting all the other kids in the playground until the teachers realise the little tykes have eaten their vice principal and that they’re next on the menu.
Said teachers include Clint, Elijah Wood’s gasbag wannabe horror writer, taking up a sub position at his old elementary school. There’s Lucy, Alison Pill’s perky former crush of Clint’s, now also a teacher at the school (evidently drawing shades off of her super-disturbing teacher role in Snowpiercer), and Wade, Rainn Wilson’s aforementioned guilty pleasure of a macho a-hole character, replete with era-confused handlebar moustache. Rounding out the faculty are co-writer Leigh Wannell’s scene-stealing science teacher Doug, and Jack McBrayer doing more of his “is-he-or-isn’t-he-gay” shtick which feels tired, and worse – lazy. The strength of (most of) the adult actors and the fun characters they’re playing is slightly undermined by the appearance of Asian janitor Mr Hatachi (Peter Kwong), a role verging on a horribly racist caricature which feels dated and sticks out like a sore thumb.
There are some fun scenes found in the film – as well there should be, considering the subject matter – not least of all the ones that revolve around bratty kids getting their comeuppance as the zombies they eventually turn into, including alpha brat Patriot (he was born on 9/11). The love triangle between Clint, Lucy and Wade is merely functional but does offer up the occasional humorous aside.
The problem with Cooties is that, ironically, it lacks bite. There’s not as much to be seen here as you might expect considering the calibre of the cast and the gonzo premise. Enough to see you through a hangover perhaps, best accompanied with too much Domino’s and a bit of alcohol still in the system. Just zone out and enjoy.
Review by Dan Woburn