Neither scary enough to be a horror film nor funny enough to be a comedy, Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s Cooties is what we’ll charitably call a “horror-comedy.” Set in the sleepy fictional town of Fort Chicken, the film kicks off inventively with a twisted factory-to-table sequence showing nasty poultry mystery meat being turned into chicken nuggets, which wind up being served to bratty kids in a school cafeteria. But there’s something amiss with those chicken nuggets. And the tykes get turned into rampaging, blood-thirsty zombies who turn recess into a bloodbath.
The first 20 minutes or so of Cooties give off the false promise that we might be in store for the kind of giddy, gruesome satire that Joe Dante might have whipped up a couple of decades ago—especially after we meet Elijah Wood’s Clint, a meek, struggling writer whose dashed ambitions have made him return to Fort Chicken and find work as a substitute teacher alongside a cartoonish faculty of freaks and weirdos, including Rainn Wilson’s dim gym teacher. But the film’s one-note gag is pretty much run into the ground before the mid-way point. From there on, it becomes an endurance test of repetitive, watered-down Village of the Damned shocks that aren’t very shocking. I honestly have no clue who this film is for. Whoever they are, they’re likely to walk out of the theater wanting a refund. C-