When horror writer Clint Hadson (Elijah Wood) arrives at Fort Chicken Elementary school to moonlight as a substitute teacher, he has no idea that a Shaun of the Dead-like zombie apocalypse is about to rip his alma mater apart. Can the adults at the school survive the rampant, chicken nugget-born illness or will their petty infighting rip them apart from the inside?
Hadson finds himself barricaded inside the school with a gym teacher who thinks he’s Rambo (Rainn Wilson), Hadson’s former high school crush (Allison Pill), and a few other teachers (Jack McBrayer, Nasim Pedrad, Leigh Whannell). Whannell (who wrote Saw, Insidious, and Death Sentence) has a wicked sense of humor that is inflicted on the elementary school kids – how they’re cruel to each other, out of control, and ultimately, just waiting to be unleashed on the world, and on the adults who pamper them, have ridiculous ideas about raising children (like the hippie vice principal), and ultimately fight through their own pasts while twisting the lives of the next generation.
I haven’t seen a horror movie this funny since Shaun. I’m aware that Cabin in the Woods was all the rage, but it wasn’t this kind of laugh out loud funny. Wilson might be funnier here than anywhere I’ve ever seen him, and Wood’s Lord of the Rings fame definitely played a role in the way that he is presented here. It’s pop culture funny and gag funny (like when Whannell’s character starts examining things scientifically), but wow, when Pill pops off, things are … on.
Cooties shows us what we’re really like by showing us what happens when we’re forced to face the world without pretense or the safety nets of technology, social norms, and privilege. Unfortunately, it often takes a dose of real fear to jar us out of our self-contained bubbles, even in the real world with or without pre-pubescent monsters! In our lives of faith, we are encouraged by Jesus to ‘take off the mask’ by being true to our creation in the image of God, by recognizing who we are without God, and by focusing in on God’s love for us, not the expectations of the world.
For those digging a little sci-fi fantasy with humor and gore, Cooties is your bus ride back to school. Just don’t forget you might end up hiding in your locker.