Cooties, a horror/comedy from Saw creator Leigh Whannell, is scatter-shot with enough top-notch moments to almost make you forget that the movie as a whole isn’t nearly as good as it could have been. The high-concept premise has a motley cast of Junior High teachers fighting back against a hoard of zombified tweeners that has infected the school. Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion run with the premise, resulting in a pleasantly diverting genre exercise that can’t quite take full advantage of its eclectic cast.
Elijah Wood stars is a substitute teacher at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Rainn Wilson, flaunting a handlebar mustache and buttloads of attitude, is an alpha male gym teacher. The reliably adorable Alison Pill plays Wood’s potential love interest. Jorge Garcia, Jack Brayer, and a severely under-utilized Nasim Padrad round out the cast. Most of the players get their moments to shine, but some obvious padding in the second act makes one wonder if the filmmakers knew where their bread was buttered. All of the actors seem game for anything. At first glance, Cooties has the potential to be the next Shaun of the Dead…but it can’t quite get there.
Don’t get me wrong, Cooties has got plenty to offer––a few of its scenes are destined to go down as cult classics. But frustratingly, Milott and Murnion repeatedly follow up a hysterical scene with an incredibly bland one. The horror aspect takes a backseat for entire chunks of the film, and rather than focus on the stronger comedy elements, the filmmakers kill screen time with tedious melodrama. In Cooties, the horror works, the comedy works, but all that drama keeps getting in the way.
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