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Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Jonathan Milott
Cary Murnion
Elijah Wood
Alison Pill
Rainn Wilson
Jack McBrayer
Nasim Pedrad
Bottom Line: 

I’m always happy to see a fresh take on the zombie genre, and with Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s Cooties, the take is as fresh (and hilariously subversive) as it gets.

The film opens with a gag-inducing credit sequence depicting the manufacturing of a single chicken nugget, where we see it go from an actual (sick) chicken to a pink/green slurry to, ultimately, a grotesque hunk of fried processed horror that’s ingested by a young girl in an elementary school cafeteria.

The next morning we are introduced to Clint (Elijah Wood); a struggling writer who has recently returned to his hometown of Fort Chicken, Illinois after a failed attempt at making it big in New York City, and now resides in his mother’s attic. While still chasing the dream, Clint accepts a substitute teacher gig at the local elementary school, where he receives a not-so-warm welcome by monster-truck driving Phys-Ed teacher, Wade (Rainn Wilson), who boxes Clint’s car in, as well as verbal lashings by an assortment of the foul-mouthed students who populate the place.

Things take a turn for the better, however, when Clint learns that his former crush, Lucy (Alison Pill), is also a teacher at the school, and Clint instantly tries to woo her with tales of his writerly adventures in The Big Apple. His romantic overtures are cut short, however, when it’s revealed that the lumbering Wade is Lucy’s beau, and Clint is forced to skulk off to his classroom to meet his new students. Here Clint meets school bullies Patriot (Cooper Roth) and Dink (Miles Elliot), who are too busy tormenting a young, sickly looking girl who also happens to be the girl who ate the rancid chicken nugget during the film’s opening. Patriot tugs on one of the girl’s ponytails, removing a chunk of her scalp in the process, and the girl reacts by biting Patriot’s face and then fleeing from the classroom.

Clint nonchalantly takes the bleeding Patriot to the nurse’s office and goes about his business, relaying the tale to the other teachers in the faculty lounge, while, outside in the playground, Dink confronts the feral girl and is also attacked. Soon Dink, too, is attacking children and, before you can recite your ABCs, most of the student body is infected, feasting on other members of the faculty, and trapping the surviving teachers inside the school.

With a supporting cast that also includes SNL/Scream Queens star, Nasim Pedrad, 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer, Lost’s Jorge Garcia, and Saw scribe, Leigh Whannel (who also provides the screenplay, here), Cooties is a star-studded, hilarious, and gloriously gory slice of splatter slapstick that, while a bit slow to get going, really hits its stride in the film’s second act, leading to a glorious finish guaranteed to please fans of blood-drenched comedy/horror hybrids. This is one of those rare films that sets aside what is currently acceptable in today’s overly politically correct climate and goes straight for the jugular with tasteless, borderline Troma-esque gags and pitch-black humor. Basically if the thought of foul-mouthed preadolescents getting their skulls caved in by fire extinguishers is an idea you can’t get behind, Cooties ain’t the flick for you, but for anyone who’s a fan of subversive, delightfully offensive cinema, this is the kind of Cooties you want to catch.

Cooties comes to Blu-ray via Lionsgate, and is presented in a crisp, detailed, and vibrant 2.39:1 transfer that features somewhat stylized color palette shifts and digitally added noise/artifacting to accentuate certain scenes in the film. For example, to heighten its stomach-churning nature, the opening credit sequence features a grainy sickly seafoam green aesthete, while, when Clint first arrives at the school, the colors are warm, natural, and pleasing, gradually growing hotter, and more aggressively surreal as our heroes are plunged into their suburban zombie nightmare. I always enjoy it when filmmakers do things like this to heighten the intended effect of various scenes, but it does make it difficult to grade the overall look of a film from a technical standpoint when it’s constantly changing. Still, it’s done well here, and, save for pickiest of videophiles, I doubt anyone will notice the inconsistencies. The film’s DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is great, thoroughly immersive stuff, projecting sound all around the room so convincingly that I found myself muting the film on more than one occasion, convinced that the screams of the feral children were my own feral children down the hall from my viewing room. This is the sort of meaty, rich sounding track usually reserved for big budget action flicks, so the film’s sound designers deserve kudos for their incredible work.

Bonus features include a rousing cast and crew commentary track, as well as a companion piece showing the track as it was being recorded (HD), a short-but-sweet EPK featurette (HD), a gag reel (HD), and a collection of deleted scenes as well as an alternate ending presented with commentary (HD).

While zombies have been done to death (sorry) of late, I found Cooties to be a refreshingly different approach to the genre, and the film’s wonderful cast, oftentimes laugh-out-loud screenplay, and tight direction by Milott and Murnion makes for a pleasantly polished yet oh-so-offensive and ballsy indie horror gem. Highly recommended.


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