Cooties review

When a mysterious illness strikes the children at a school – turning them in to flesh-eating, manic little killers – a small group of teachers must band together to kill or be killed.

Cooties is hilarious. If I had a pound for every time someone laughed, giggled or guffawed during the screening I went to, I would be rich and ridiculously so. As a comedy, Cooties is mostly a success. It is easy to fall for the film's witty charm and the laughs will come quick and fast; totally relentless until the very end. Fellow writers will enjoy the laughs surrounding Wood's character of Clint. As a struggling novelist, Clint represents every writer's aspirations and dreams of making it big. From the onset he is painted as a bit of a loser; he lives with his critically honest mother and desperately tries to be accepted by his fellow teachers, but some how manages to put his foot in it. The rest of the cast – which includes Whannel, Pill, Wilson and McBrayer – are equally as funny. However, the non-stop jokes do begin to wear a little thin. By the halfway mark the comedic onslaught is quite simply exhausting. Many of the jokes are rinsed and repeated and by the seven hundredth time Wade (Wilson) mispronounces "dual rear wheel" when talking about his car, you'll be ready to blow your own brains out.

There are nice little nods to other films within Cooties; from Whannel's own Saw, Dawn of the Dead – of course – and even Irreversible, the film is at its best when it's paying homage to other horrors. These little touches heighten Cooties' level of intelligence and emphasise its intent on being a smart little flick. It could have done with a few more of these moments, but the few it has hit the nail on the head. There's a good level of self-awareness within Cooties and it easily walks the thin line between intelligence and annoyance which so many films can fail to do. Something that is too meta – like Detention – is too much for me and entertainment levels diminished very early during that watch. Cooties, however, is greatly entertaining and infectiously funny.

The horror side of Cooties is where it falls a little flat. There are few moments of bloody mayhem, but not enough to propel Cooties in to the horror-comedy stratosphere. The focus on generating laughs is favoured in place of rendering frights and that's a shame. I could say that the creators “chickened” out of making Cooites properly gory, but I won't. However, I will say that the film delivers very little horror and fans who are after Tucker and Dale vs Evil or Dead Snow levels of gore may be disappointed. This being said, Cooties does have one great slow-motion scene filled with a lot of violence; I just wish there were a tiny bit more.

Undeniably, the strongest aspect of Cooties is its stars, as they propel the film forward in an explosion of comedy. Even if those non-stop laughs slowly die the longer the film goes on. Cooties would have benefited from a bigger helping of gore to go with its humour-filled main course. Overall though, it's a top-notch little endeavour and I wouldn't say no to a Cooties 2...

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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