The true and perfect alchemy of the horror comedy can be difficult, near impossible to achieve. Even the genre classics, Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, Shaun of the Dead, lean more towards comedy with horror elements, and at the other end of the spectrum there’s films like Dead Alive or Evil Dead 2 that are funny because their horrifying scenarios are so ridiculously over the top. That’s why I’m so excited about the new film Cooties, now available On Demand and in a very limited theatrical run (it’s playing here in Philly at the Roxy this week), because I think it’s one of the few times in history that horror and comedy have been dealt in equal measure and the results are, in my opinion, kind of amazing.
Elijah Wood stars as a substitute elementary school teacher on his first day at the job in his alma mater, reconnecting with his old crush (Alison Pill) and her new douchebag alpha male gym teacher boyfriend, played to dorky perfection The Office’s Rainn Wilson. As if that situation wouldn’t be terrifying enough, the school children become infected with what they deem “cooties”, an infection spread by the proud favorite export of the town of “Fort Chicken”, chicken nuggets. The ensuing carnage is hilarious and horrifying in equal measure, putting a new twist in the somewhat rote zombie genre, given the smart writing of Saw series veteran (and brilliantly awkward co-star) Leigh Whanell.
The gore here is serious business and will please horror hounds just as well as any other pure genre picture this season, and the laughs come in equal measure, the talented cast (also including SNL alum Nasim Pedrad, 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer and Lost’s Jorge Garcia) more than up to the task of adding levity to the grim proceedings. Whanell did seem to give himself all the good lines though as the socially inept science expert of the group, but the rest of the cast has time to shine as well.
Sure, after the somewhat unique premise gets things rolling the plot settles into the usual survival-horror fare, but the material is handled swiftly and deftly, and the film is highly entertaining throughout. Cooties is funny and gory and just a damn good time, and an awesome way to get into the spirit of the coming Halloween season. If you can’t smile at the sight of Frodo, Hurley and Dwight, cracking wise and violently beating back a horde of 10 year old zombies, then you might’ve gotten into some bad nuggets yourself.