New to Blu-ray this week is the superb horror-comedy, “Cooties”. This film hits all the marks that a quality horror-comedy should, never skewing too far on one side or the other. This film packs enough gore and jokes to satisfy ALMOST any taste. Do yourself a favor and get infected!

“Cooties” starts out with our lead character Clint, played by Elijah Wood. Clint returns to his hometown of Fort Chicken after a failed stint as a NY novelist. His sad reality has him waking up in his childhood room complete with all the posters and knick-knacks he thought he’d left behind. Clint then heads off to work as a substitute teacher in his former elementary school. Anyone who’s ever followed his or her dreams with less than stellar results can relate to Clint’s plight.

As the day goes on, Clint “runs into” his childhood crush Lucy, played by Alison Pill, and her asshole P.E. teacher/boyfriend Wade, played by Rainn Wilson. Wilson is a real show stealer in “Cooties” with his quick wit and foul sense of humor. Anyone worried about him being typecast due to his work as Dwight Schrute, need not worry. You couldn’t ask for a better “tough-guy” than Wade. The rest of the faculty is rounded out by the likes Jack McBrayer, Nasim Pedrad, and Leigh Whannell. Leigh Whannell’s performance as the socially awkward science teacher is also laugh-out-loud funny. It’s almost hard to believe he’s the co-creator of the “Saw” franchise, until you see where “Cooties” is headed.

It’s business as usual at Fort Chicken Elementary, until the cafeteria serves the students tainted chicken nuggets, transforming the student body into bloodthirsty, zombified maniacs. The faculty hardly notices at first, due to their general apathy towards their jobs as well as the foul nature of “kids these days”. As one of Clint’s students Patriot, that’s right…Patriot, tells Clint as he’s being scolded “while you were talking, I just looked at like a hundred vaginas”. Kids hardly seem like innocent creatures in this film. After a little flirting with Lucy, things start to go awry for Clint and company. The playground is transformed into a brutal killing ground, as the kids begin to change one another into little flesh-eating monsters. It then becomes a no-holds-barred battle of students vs. teachers. I guess Clint picked the wrong day to be a sub.

I can’t stress how much fun this movie was. It’s gory as hell, and still manages to maintain a super sharp sarcastic wit. It’s no surprise that this film is the brainchild of the aforementioned Leigh Whannell, and the always-sharp Ian Brennan. Fans of the Fox series “Scream Queens” and “Glee” will know the exact type of humor I’m referring to, as Brennan is credited as a creator on both series. He also has a brief cameo as Vice Principal Simms before meeting a very fitting fate. The humor comes at a lightning fast pace, which I believe will make the film even better upon a second viewing. Elijah Wood’s emerging film company Spectrevision also produced “Cooties”. Spectrevision has slowly been carving out a name for itself with the likes of “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, “Open Windows” and the upcoming “The Boy”. Wood is no stranger to horror as well with his criminally underrated performance in the “Maniac” remake. “Maniac” was probably my favorite horror film of 2013, but I digress.

I had the pleasure of seeing the film earlier in the year at The Stanley Film Festival, where many of the cast and crew were in attendance. Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, and Leigh Whannell were all in attendance and discussed some of the good times, and challenges involved with filming. The one anecdote that stands out is when Whannell was referring to the difficult subject of killing kids. Granted that these are zombie kids, but they are kids nonetheless. The rule while writing was that there could be no guns allowed. There is no shortage of teacher on student carnage, but only perpetrated by items that could be found in a school. This means band instruments; garden tools…use your imagination. Everyone involved in the project talked about how much fun the film was to make, and it shows in the finished product. “Cooties” was an audience favorite during the film fest weekend and likely would’ve won the audience award had it not been for “The Final Girls”.

Why this film was never distributed on a large scale is beyond me. I think it will easily go down as one of the best horror-comedies in the last decade. Fans of films like “Zombieland” or “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” should definitely seek this out immediately. Walking the horror-comedy tightrope is very often a failed effort. “Cooties” is an example of genre mashing done right!

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