‘Cooties’: Makes Audience Sick With Cinematic Germs


Please don’t feed the children

The Plot:

When failed writer Clint returns home from the Big Apple to teach while continuing to work on that first novel, things can’t get any worse. Living with his mom, and watching his childhood crush with the town douche, Clint feels he’s hit rock bottom. But when a mysterious case of cooties creates a horde of blood hungry mini-mutants out of the once playful little people, Clint must step up for the first time in his life if he hopes to both survive and achieve his dreams. With time running out, and the school staff dropping like Brundle flies, Clint’s got to give it all he’s got. Teaching today’s youth can be hard and surviving until last period could prove impossible. Welcome to Cooties.

The Review:

I remember seeing the trailer for Cooties and being genuinely excited. The film looked to carry a fun tone and seemed like it was worth my time. Throw in the fact the increasingly awesome Leigh Whannell was co-writing the project and I was there. Unfortunately, the film isn’t playing near me, but it’s currently available on demand. I also figure some of you Deadites were interested in the film and might like to know if it’s any good. First chance I got, I fired up the remote, grabbed a beer, and got ready for a thrill ride. Sadly, this ride has way too many speed bumps. So let’s all call roll, grade some creepy extra credit, and finally step foot in that mysterious teachers’ lounge as I review the 2015 kid unfriendly film, Johnathan Milot and Cary Murnion’s Cooties.

The Direction:

Johnathan Milot and Cary Murnion direct Cooties with focus and drive. The picture-making pair, whose efforts on Cooties was the collective’s first outing, really bring the stuff in terms of direction. While the film is far from perfect, more on that in the script section, Cooties is very stylish and fans of direction will immediately pick up on the stylish nature of the film.

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That style comes by way of camera movement. Where the film mostly lacks cinematic language and composition, the directing duo more than make up in the camera movement department. Swift shots come at you like a fast ball at the World Series and more than a few times I was impressed.

A few of the standout shots include a long take following a fellow friend of the kid zero (this shot is a higher than normal medium that follows the kid all the way across the playground until he reaches his destination), a beautiful rotating shot that circles star Rainn Wilson as he begins with to realize the trouble he’s in, and a beautiful ceiling shot that shows multi-contextual situations playing out at once: two characters moving down a vent as some cootie kids circle like Bruce from Spielberg’s Jaws. The direction in Cooties made me hate the film less. What can I say, I’m a director’s viewer first. (B-)

The Script:

Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan script of Cooties is a mess of a narrative. While the film is funny at times, when it’s not trying too hard to force the laughs, and there is little plot momentum, structure, or satisfying payoffs.

Pleased to meet you with meat to please you.-Wade

This film starts in a decent fashion. I’ve heard other critics call the film not scary or unfunny. It’s true that the film is funny at times, often alternating between jokes that work extremely well to gags that are ironically childish, but the film wasn’t meant to be scary. In fact, the first 20 minutes or so begin to build a tone that is refreshing and rife with clever satire. It’s making fun of the films that take themselves too seriously. Cooties is attempting to jab at the zombie genre, almost laughing at the popular sub-genre instead of laughing with it. Then the script changes.

The film starts and stops plot momentum (there is very little to begin with) numerous times throughout the film. After opening with establishing a central character, played by the always excellent Elijah Wood, the film moves into parody mode. I wasn’t upset with the shift, and in fact, I believed the setting up of the protagonist strengthened the film attempt at mockery. Then the film abandons that and tries to be an actual narrative. Then it goes back to forced gags, then goes back to essentially tell the audience to pay close attention and it will pay off, which it doesn’t. What’s most frustrating is the film’s attempt at being three films at once and not succeeding at any.

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The film did make me laugh, though. The only problem is any time plot momentum begins to build, the film loses confidence or direction and throws in a forced gag (it’s painfully obvious which are natural and which are not) or even a joke that works. Sadly, both work against the film having any real impact of the audience.

The ending also falls flat as the film abandons the main character in favor of the film’s antagonist. That’s right, the script is so bad that the antagonist (essentially) is viewed as the hero and the protagonist as an idiot. I hated the ending and wish I could retroactively go back and not experience the film. (D+)

The Acting:

The acting in Cooties is pretty top notch. In fact, it’s probably the strongest part of the whole film. I’m not sure if the actors didn’t read the script, but they certainly didn’t bring the level of acting that the script actually deserved.

Elijah Wood stars as Clint, the fragile, aspiring writer who longs for love and publication.  Wood, who’s most known for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), is great in the film and in many ways, plays up the tropes he’s become known for.

Rainn Wilson co-stars as Wade. Most known as Dwight Schrute from the popular TV show The Office (2005-2013), Wilson is awesome in Cooties. Playing the antagonist, the actor is hilarious as the former all-star jock who maybe bought into his own hype.

Alison Pill does a great job in the film and arguably gives the strongest performance. Playing Lucy, the actress is tasked with many different situations and emotions. While the film isn’t an actors piece in the slightest, Pill gives it her all in the little time she had to actually act.

All of this still doesn’t save Cooties from being the mess that it is. (B-)

The Verdict:

Cooties is ultimately a waste of time. While genuinely funny at time, and painfully unfunny at others, it’s an unsatisfying experience that left me wanting way more for my money. Fans of direction will be pleased, but others with leave the experience unfulfilled. If you can see it for free, go that route, because I was ticked I paid for it. Check out The Visit instead, it’s better than pie. Deadites, you’ve been warned.

The Grade: D+

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