[Sundance Review] Cooties

[Ruby Hornet will be at Sundance Film Festival 2014 providing coverage of the festival’s 30th year. Keep it tuned to Ruby Hornet this week as we share reviews, interviews, photos, and more at one of the country’s largest film festivals.]

Directors: Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion
Rating: N/A

Release Date: January 18, 2014

Everybody growing up remembers cooties. At one point in time, we’ve all received a cootie shot after the patented “circle, circle, dot dot” prescribed to us by our caring friends. In a way, the cootie shot was a rite of passage to protect us from the other sex until, well, we began thinking about sex. However, imagine if “cooties” were real, and the virus ended up being something much much worse than getting boy/girl germs on you?

Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s Cooties addresses this very idea, albeit in a dark, and twisted manner. The “cooties” in Cooties are nothing more than an exaggerated result of diseases meat getting eaten by a young girl who falls ill. As her sickness manifests in something much more sinister, spreading across an entire school full of summer school children, it’s up to the teachers, led by Clint (Elijah Wood), an aspiring writer who subs in for a sick teacher at his childhood elementary school, his childhood friend, Lucy (Alison Pill), her boyfriend, Wade (Rainn Wilson), and the other fellow teachers, played by Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Rainn Wilson (The Office), Leigh Whannell (Saw III), and Nasim Pedrad (SNL), to attempt the school with two young survivor before they become another cafeteria meal.


Cooties is like a zombie film, with the zombies played solely by children. The added wrinkle is kind of fun, with a handful of current/former teachers at my screening referring to the film as “cathartic.” There’s something fun about seeing adults attack little kids, albeit with the added caveat of them becoming monsters. However, beyond that dark twist (and what it says about our enjoyment in seeing kids being beaned with high speed baseballs and sliced with katanas), Cooties otherwise feels very run of the mill.

While the film starts on a high note and ends on an exciting level, the entire second act of the film just drags on and halts all the progression and energy up to that point. Some of the jokes don’t really stick during the second act, either. Despite a cast full of sitcom stars and comedic actors, Cooties was sorely lacking in the humor department. A minor role played by LOST‘s helped keep the film on a good, humorous tone, but ultimately, the laughs simply weren’t there.

Cooties presented a twist to the typical zombie film, but only by a minimal margin. There’s a sense of social commentary behind the outbreak, but again, it’s nothing out of the ordinary that we’ve come to expect from the genre. It’s fun, light, and could find a cult following from fans of the actor and genre,  but everybody outside of those circles might want another cootie shot.

Geoff Henao

Geoff Henao is a writer/kinda photographer affiliated with the Chicago collective LOD. His interests include film, punk rock, cute girls, graphic novels, video games, and the Chicago Bulls. He's funny sometimes.

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