COOTIES **** USA 2014 Dir: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion. 87 mins

An infected chicken nugget turns up at a school in the small town of Fort Chicken, Illinois, where a pigtailed little girl in novelist / substitute teacher Elijah Wood’s class bites lumps out of a pupil’s cheek in class and initiates a plague that only affects pre-pubescents. Among the broadly sketched protagonists are a scene-stealing P E teacher Rainn Wilson (“You can’t eat the teachers, man!”) and screenwriter Leigh Whannell giving himself some of the best lines as a socially awkward teacher (“Oh look, carnage!”).
Whannell’s comic-horror homage to infection cinema plays like an amped up, comedic reworking of THE CHILDREN as the virus transforms youngsters into feral, flesh-munching monsters. It’s fast paced and inventively gruesome with its images of kids with skipping ropes fashioned from human entrails and over-the-line gags about September 11th, alongside scenes of infected babies and kids bludgeoned with fire extinguishers.  It’s all engagingly played by an appealing cast, with Wilson relishing his transformation into a one-liner spouting 80’s styled badass, a metamorphosis reflected via the film’s own retro suiting up montage.

Review by Steven West

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