31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 9: Cooties (2014)

I imagine the actors in this were told to ‘scream funny’. You know, that comically-overdone sitcom scream where one’s back is stiff-straight but the arms are flailing, the chin is angled downward and the eyes are bulging. They run in one direction, stop, do the ‘sitcom scream’, turn, run again, do another scream, and the third turn is the whatever punchline is languishing in wait.

It’s even more disappointing than it sounds when you’ve got the likes of Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Alison Pill and Jorge Garcia playing characters who should be funny and/or interesting, in a scenario that is, by definition, stuffed tight full of tension. 

Wood plays Clint, an aspiring horror novelist and substitute teacher at a summer elementary school. On his first day, a kid who’s been teased for her bad skin lashes out by eating her bully’s face, and soon the school grounds are crawling with flesh-hungry brats. 

There are enough adults to satisfy the on-screen bloodlust that this genre demands (any bitten kid gets turned), and every incident gets slapped every which way with hip, commercial humour and in-jokes (some of which are truly funny), so I can see that it’s definitely going for the horror-comedy thing there. But the caricature characters are too flimsy to care about once they each get their exposition monologues, and the dated, off-kilter score and boring direction kill any sense of dread the movie might have accidentally found itself in. 

It’s a bright attempt at irreverent horror, and worth it to see Elijah Wood in a movie you wouldn’t normally see him in, but that’s a curiosity better fulfilled by his turn in the Maniac remake (if you’ve got the stomach for it). T’is a pity. I wanted to really, properly like this one, but I ended up only just…liking it.

2.9/5

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