A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cooties is a horror-comedy about kids who turn into zombies after eating tainted chicken nuggets. Despite a talented cast and a screenplay co-written by horror veteran Leigh Whannell, the movie eventually grows boring and tasteless and, frankly, is too icky to recommend to just about anyone. Adults bash and fight kid zombies, there's lots of blood and gore (including severed limbs), and a disturbing, stomach-turning prologue shows chicken nuggets being made. Language is extremely strong, with constant use of words including "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t." There's some kissing and innuendo; a minor character spends the movie tripping on "shrooms," and kids pop Ritalin and Adderall pills. There's also some cultural stereotyping.
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What's the story?
Struggling writer Clint (Elijah Wood) returns from a sojourn in New York to his hometown of Fort Chicken to take a job as a substitute summer school teacher. He meets an old crush, Lucy (Alison Pill), in the teacher's lounge, but his hopes are dashed when he learns she's dating uncouth P.E. teacher Wade (Rainn Wilson). Meanwhile, some tainted chicken nuggets have found their way to the school cafeteria, and a girl has been infected with some kind of terrible, zombie-like disease. She bites another kid, and soon most of the kids have turned into flesh-eating monsters. The teachers, who remain unaffected, must band together to survive.
Is it any good?
Starting off promisingly with an utterly gruesome prologue (you'll never eat chicken nuggets again) and some funny, likable characters, this horror-comedy eventually becomes bland and tasteless. Co-written by Leigh Whannell, who helped concoct the Saw and Insidious movies, COOTIES might have started out as a good idea, and it certainly attracted a fine cast. It also makes some wry, satirical comments about modern schooling and parenting (with Ritalin and Adderall making appearances), as well as pleading a heartfelt defense of the teaching profession.
But the idea of kids as zombies -- with adults beating, bashing, pummeling, and slashing them -- gets distasteful and sour, and the laughs stop. Plus, the movie loses interest in the humans, and they turn into cliches. (There's even an unfunny Asian stereotype.) It's evident that co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion ended up in a corner with no way out, especially given Cooties' weirdly abrupt ending.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Cooties' zombie violence. How did it make you feel? Was it funny, thrilling, or disturbing? How did the filmmakers achieve that effect? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
What's the appeal of zombie movies? How does this one compare to others you've seen?
What does the movie have to say about the relationships between kids and adults in the modern world? Do you think it makes any fair points?
Are there bullies in the movie? Are they dealt with in a positive way?
- In theaters: September 18, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2015
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson
- Directors: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: horror violence and gore, language including sexual references, and some drug use
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