31 Days of Horror 2016: Cooties (2014)


Everyone who knows me knows that I live and breathe the shuffling dead. I don’t know why I love zombies so much except that I truly believe this is where all of civilization is heading and, I’m hoping that the honey bees will be the next supreme species to take over the world because we suck at the job. As a zombie connoisseur I’ve seen almost every zombie movie ever made, but I’ve never seen the apocalypse caused by fast food. Did the horror comedy Cooties meet my expectations? Grab a chicken nugget and follow me.


Cooties is a 2014 horror/comedy film directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott. It stars Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson and Elijah Wood. Having worked two years as a substitute teacher in an inner city school, I was ready to enjoy Elijah Wood‘s character, Clint Hadson, as the struggling substitute teacher. The life of a substitute teacher is hard and we are often abused by the students and ignored by the tenured staff.


The film begins with a peek at how the zombie virus spreads via a factory where the chickens are killed and made into bite-sized snacks. Since I believe that our contaminated food and water is the means to the upcoming apocalypse, I wasn’t surprised that this kind of food is still served at our schools. When will we learn that we are what we eat?!

Clint, who left his teaching job in New York and is now living at his mother’s home, is obsessed with finishing his first novel. If he’ll ever get this novel published is questionable, especially since his own mother thinks the book needs lots of work. Clint gets a position at his old elementary school and after getting introduced to the other teachers realizes that his former girlfriend is a teacher at the school. Lucy (Alison Pill) is now dating Wade (Rainn Wilson), the school gym teacher, but when she and Clint reminisce about the good old days, Wade gets jealous.


While Clint tries to earn the respect of his students, one of the children (Sunny May Allison) who had previously eaten one of the tainted nuggets attacks her classmates. Clint is able to save a handful of teachers, but the rest of the staff soon fall victim to the pint-sized zombies. The scenes are gory and we soon realize that this film is more horror than comedy. There are no punches pulled when the eating frenzy begins and the staff is forced to get down and dirty to protect themselves from the pack of ghoulish tots. After examining the brain of one of the children, Doug tells the others that only prepubescent children are at risk of catching the virus.


Rainn Wilson of The Office fame stands out in this film as the Mad Max of Fort Chicken, Illinois. Even while Wade and Clint jostle for Lucy’s attention, they do work together to protect the surviving teachers who include: Rebbekah (Nasim Pedrad), Tracy (Jack McBrayer), Doug (Leigh Whannell) the sex-ed teacher who knows a wealth of apocalyptic science facts, and Mr. Hitachi (Peter Kwong) the janitor a.k.a. martial arts expert. Whannell is also one of the writers for the film and the part that he wrote for his character is hilarious. After escaping from the school with the help of the stoned crossing guard, Rick (Jorge Garcia), the survivors with two uninfected students take shelter in a local fun house. Unfortunately, the infection has spread throughout the country.


The Walking Dead has featured a few elementary school-aged zombies over the years, but Sophia and Penny had nothing on the Fort Chicken flesh eaters. These munchkins are ferocious and lethal and we shed no tears when they are put down. Rainn Wilson was the biggest surprise in the film and I found myself cheering for him even if he acted the part of the male chauvinist gym teacher.


What I really enjoyed about the film was that it was shot from the teachers’ point of view. I’ve always felt that teaching the little cherubs should be considered a hazardous job and placed on the same level as firefighter and police officer. I speak from experience. On my very first day as a substitute teacher, I was assigned to the eighth grade class. Most of those children were taller than me and built like professional football players. After introducing myself to the class, I turned towards the blackboard to write my name on the board. Within seconds, I was bombarded by thousands of spitballs.

Cooties is not what I’d call a great zombie film, but it is a fun film to watch late at night when you can’t fall asleep. If you’ve ever stood in front of a classroom and tried to teach a room full of students who stared blankly into space while you tried to teach them important information, then I would recommend you seeing it. Teachers and substitute teachers will definitely get the inside jokes.



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