Given the presence of comedy pros like Rainn Wilson (The Office), Jack McBreyer (30 Rock) and Nasim Pedrad (Saturday Night Live), as well as actors with definite comedy chops (Elijah Wood, Alison Pill), it's no surprise that horror-comedy Cooties delivers on the "comedy" half of that label.
The pleasant surprise with Cooties is how effective the action-packed horror aspect of the movie works. Granted, Cooties is far more of a comedy than a typical splatter flick, and much of the gore and mayhem is here to serve the jokes that come fast and furious throughout the 96-minute running time. Even so, there is real tension and some scary thrills along the way that serve the movie well.
The action starts almost immediately, when wannabe author Clint Hadson (Wood) shows up at his hometown elementary school to serve as a substitute teacher. He meets the other teachers, including old friend Lucy (Pill) and her jock PE teacher boyfriend (Wilson), before heading to class, where one of his students attacks another teeth-first, a virus of some sort having turned the attacking child into a mini-zombie. Soon enough, the virus has spread through all the students save two who hole up with Clint and his new faculty friends and try to hatch a plan to alert and outside world to their plight, and escape in the process.
The brutal and hilarious efforts of the teachers to contend with constantly attacking adolescents makes for a fun flick, particularly with the comedic aces involved throwing lines at each other that nod to horror-movie tropes and their own story's absurdity. Wood and Pill make for a fine duo dabbling in a forbidden romance to the chagrin of Wilson's macho man, and Pedrad gets some of the best lines of the film playing a conservative teacher obsessed with keeping gay teachers, like McBreyer's character, away from the children. Yes, even a zombie horror-comedy has time for some political satire, and the jokes throughout land at a high percentage.
It makes sense for Cooties to be part of the edgy Park City at Midnight portion of Sundance, but I expect you'll see it in wide release soon enough.
Remaining Cooties showings:
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2:30 p.m., The MARC, Park City
Friday, Jan. 24, 11:45 p.m., Library Center Theatre, Park City