Elijah Wood, an aspiring novelist, shows up for his first day of work as an elementary school teacher only to find that the student body has been infected with a rapidly transmitted cannibal zombie plague, which complicates his hopes of sparking a geeky romance with faculty colleague Alison Pill. Cooties is a difficult film to review for the reason of the impression it gives of being two stylistically clashing stories forced into uncomfortable cohabitation. It is, on the one hand, a delightful take on the quirky romantic comedy genre and, at the same time, as repulsive a dose of dysfunction-inducement as has ever been splattered onto celluloid.
For the mostly harmless first fifteen minutes or so, the unsuspecting viewer might mistake Cooties for merely a fun but biting social commentary on various twenty-first century neuroses; but the extreme evisceration and the trivialization of violence toward children that follow steer the movie into an altogether darker and more upsetting territory. Cooties is wittily scripted and brilliantly cast, with several very memorable character turns from Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, and the other adult performers; but it is too bad that their efforts work to strengthen such a remorseless assault on already collapsing demographics.
Cooties earns 4 out of 5 stars for the fine comic talent on display, but goes onto the list of films whose producers will be interned in the pitiless gulags of an imagined moral future. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Cooties is:
6. Pro-drug. Jorge Garcia gets through the ordeal with the help of a bag of psychedelic mushroom “medication”.
5. Racist! Indulging in a bit of hipster racism, the film features a Japanese janitor (Peter Kwong) who (naturally) turns out to have mad martial arts skills. In a scene that can be read more than one way, a seemingly random reference to “shekels” creates a moment of strange discomfort in the faculty lounge. Is this a sly reference to Jewish hegemony in the world of high finance, or an indication that only socially awkward types who alienate their peers take an interest in such conspiracy theories?
4. Pro-gay. Jack McBrayer appears as a screechily drawling homosexual.
3. Liberal. With one set dressed in decorations for the school’s Fourth of July pageant, Cooties advertises itself as a commentary on twenty-first century America. Conservatives and terrorists, it seems, are to blame for turning a generation of children into rabid maniacs. The snottiest of the boys (Cooper Roth) was born on 9/11 and therefore named Patriot. His aspiration, he says, is to kick “towel head ass”. Alison Pill’s perky teacher character, however, claims to have beaten the terrorists “with a positive attitude.” Nasim Pedrad plays a shrill anti-government nutcase who ridicules the idea of evolution.
2. Pro-miscegenation and anti-white. “I always wanted to have sex with a prostitute who was non-white,” confesses Leigh Whannel in the role of a socially diseased weirdo. It is also noteworthy that the only two children to survive the zombie epidemic without being affected are a white girl (Morgan Lily) and a docile mulatto (Armani Jackson). The viewer is left to assume that these two will go on to repopulate a new and more peaceful human community. As in Reclaim, whites are invited to find hope and consolation in a racially alien pseudo-posterity.
1. Antinatalist. Set in Fort Chicken, Illinois – a name suggestive of cowardice and defensiveness – Cooties both expresses and exacerbates millennials’ anxieties about procreation, casting children as monstrous annoyances fit only for extermination. Pedrad’s character wears a “rape button”. Considering her workplace and suburban location, however, it is less likely that she fears sexual assault than that she has a problem with the prospect of adult sexual intimacy and motherhood. She and other freaks in Cooties reflect a generation’s psychological immaturity. The film, however, rewards them with a tentative survival for their determination to stamp out a possible posterity. As disturbing as the savage fire-extinguisher head-smashing and other means devised to murder children in the film are the multiple verbal associations of children and sex in a context of violence. “I’m givin’ you kids an ‘F’ – for ‘Fuck you!’” declares Rainn Wilson during the climactic battle sequence. “Fuck you, mom,” a boy tells his mother earlier in the film. Most disgustingly, a child is told to “eat a cock” as a truck’s chicken-shaped bumper ornament is rammed into his face to kill him.