Cooties (film)

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Cooties poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
  • Jonathan Milott
  • Cary Murnion
Produced by
Screenplay by
Music by Kreng
Cinematography Lyle Vincent
Edited by Brett W. Bachman
Distributed by Lionsgate Premiere[1]
Release date
  • January 18, 2014 (2014-01-18) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • September 18, 2015 (2015-09-18) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes[1]
Country United States[1]
Language English
Box office $348,091[2]

Cooties is a 2014 American[1] horror comedy film directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, written by Ian Brennan and Leigh Whannell. The film stars Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer and Jorge Garcia.

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014,[3] before being released on September 18, 2015, in a limited release and through video on demand by Lionsgate Premiere.[4]


In the town of Ft. Chicken, Illinois, a fourth grade student at Ft. Chicken Elementary, Shelly Linker (Sunny May Allison), consumes a tainted black-dotted chicken nugget, this chicken nugget is contaminated with a mutant virus known as "Cooties". Elsewhere, wannabe horror writer Clint Hadson (Elijah Wood) substitutes at Ft. Chicken Elementary, where he reunites with his former high school crush, Lucy McCormick, (Alison Pill), only to discover that she is already dating Wade Johnson (Rainn Wilson), the Physical Education teacher.

During class, Shelly, who had been experiencing numerous symptoms of strange wheezing and blisters on the face, brutally attacks her classmate, Patriot (Cooper Roth) after he tugs on one of her pigtails only to have it torn out of her scalp in the process. In response, she bites the skin off his cheek, infecting him with the virus; she also claws Clint, but he appears to show no symptoms. Though she tries to escape the school by digging her way out before she fully turns, Shelly turns feral and passes the virus to Dink (Miles Elliot), another bully and Patriot's friend by clawing his cheek (while he was trying to scold her for attacking his friend). Dink, now infected with the virus, spreads the virus throughout the playground by scratching the rest of the children, resulting in the other children becoming infected and attacking the school staff; Mr. Pederson, Miss Nash, Mrs. Gordon, Nurse Rhonda, Vice Principal Simms and Mr. Henderson are all killed by the children. A police officer (Matt Jones) arrives at the scene to quell the children, not realizing that they are beyond help, but has two fingers bitten off and is then mauled by Shelly as she escapes the playground and attacks him in his car. The few surviving staff members, consisting of Clint, Lucy, Wade, Tracy Lacey (Jack McBrayer), Rebbekah Halverson (Nasim Pedrad), Doug (Leigh Whannell), and Mrs. Birk (Tammie Baird), hide in the faculty lounge but are attacked by Patriot who tackles Mrs. Birk into a cupboard and mauls her to death (Tracy, apparently unaware of her real name, screams "Who is that lady?!" when this happens).

After escaping with a single uninfected student named Calvin (whom they found in the library studying for his test), the staff barricade themselves in the music room but are discovered by Shelly, with more blisters on her face and retreats after a while. Wade notices Clint has been infected by Shelly and quarantines him and they see that Clint is severely vomiting, but Doug deduces that the virus doesn't affect adults like it does the children. The staff decides to wait until the parents arrive to pick up the children, but this plan fails when Racer Dopkins, son of the local PTA president, infects his baby brother and that zombified baby attacks and kills his oblivious mother. Eventually, they instead manage to rescue a teenager, Tamra (Morgan Lily) by pulling on Tracy's leg which has been grasped by the zombified kids, only to discover that she has also been infected when she presents a scratch on her back to them.

The staff is attacked by the children again, and Wade kills Dink by bludgeoning him to death with a fire extinguisher. Doug extracts and analyzes Dink's brain, which has turned black and rotten due to the decomposition effects caused by the virus. He concludes that the virus is only dangerous to the prepubescent (not going through puberty), which is why Clint and Tamra didn't turn feral as they had passed that stage. The staff and uninfected children unite with the local school janitor, Mr. Hitachi (Peter Kwong), but Calvin passes out due to diabetic shock. The group opts to send Clint through the ventilation system to gather a chocolate bar for Calvin, Wade's truck keys, and their cellphones. Lucy joins Clint and the two confess their feelings to each other while trapped in the library. Wade also apologizes for his behavior over a walkie-talkie. Although, they lost contact with each other. Thanks to Patriot, they manage to secure a chocolate bar and bring Calvin out of diabetic shock. The group then reunites after Clint knocks out several children with drugs causing them to overdose, utilizing various tools in the school as weapons, and together, they head outside only to discover a horde of infected children. Working together they manage to fight their way through although Hitachi is seemingly killed inside while Wade, realizing they need time to escape, apparently sacrifices himself to ensure the others get away.

After killing a stowaway Patriot by crushing him against a tree, the group arrives in the nearby town of Danville, where they discover that it has been similarly overrun by the infected children. The group then learns that the viral infection has spread across the United States, with schools burning to the ground and reports of violence and destruction caused by children who have been infected with the virus, only to be ambushed by a small horde of infected children. They barricade themselves inside a building and manage to retrieve a chicken nugget that is contaminated with the virus, which Doug will use to possibly make a vaccination for the virus. When the survivors attempt to leave the building the now found evidence of the case, they stumble upon a funhouse playroom with the biggest horde of infected children (the group has ever seen), including Shelly. When the group is about to accept death, they hear a car arriving at the scene and the children stop to hear. Wade and Mr. Hitachi arrive and rescue the group. As Wade uses a massive beach ball to barricade the children inside, he sprays them with water. As he pulls out shades and a lighter, he reveals the liquid to be gasoline and not water and burns the funhouse to the ground from inside. They then escape in crossing guard Rick's (Jorge Garcia) van, driving out of the town to "someplace kids don't wanna go". A flaming Shelly attempts to pursue them, but she falls down and burns to death which eventually allows them to make their escape.

In the after-credits scene, Mr. Hitachi is shown sitting down, wielding a machete and finishes the frog and caterpillar story.



The film was produced by Elijah Wood’s production company SpectreVision and Tove Christensen's company Glacier Films. Executive Producers include Leigh Whannell, Seth William Meier and Ian C. Brennan.[5]


The filming began on July 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.[6] Elijah Wood and Glacier Films produced the film.[7] In September 2014, it was announced that they had filmed a new ending for the film which was paid for by Lionsgate.[8] The new ending debuted at the Stanley Film Festival.[9]


Cooties (Music from The Motion Picture)
Soundtrack album by Kreng
Released September 18, 2015
Genre Film soundtrack
Label Milan Records

The film was scored by Kreng, and was released on September 18, 2015, by Milan Records, in digital download and physical CD formats.[10]


On April 30, 2015, two teaser posters for the film were released.[11] On May 20, 2015, the official trailer was released.[12]

Release and reception[edit]

The film premiered on January 18, 2014, at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival where it was selected to be featured in the "Park City at Midnight" program.[13] The original planned release date in the United States was October 10, 2014. The film had its premiere opening night at the Stanley Film Festival on April 30, 2015.[14] The film went onto screen at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 17, 2015.[15] The film had its Los Angeles premiere on September 3, 2015, at SpectreFest.[16] It has also been selected to screen at the Sitges Film Festival on October 10, 2015.[17]

Box office[edit]

The film was released in the US on September 18, 2015, in a limited release and through video on demand by Lionsgate Premiere.[4] It debuted in 29 screens, where it placed 61st with $33,031. It saw a 77% drop in its second weekend with a weekend gross of $7,545 from 20 screens, bringing its cumulative total to $55,749.

The film also opened in Russia the same weekend, where it came in seventh place with a weekend total of $113,995 from 695 screens (but with a low $164 per screen average).

The film opened in Malaysia on September 23. It debuted in eight place with a gross of $5,381 from 40 screens. The following day saw the movie released in both Malaysia ($22,321 from 40 screens), Thailand ($57,024 from 62 screens), and Ukraine ($6,109 from 44 screens)

As of September 30, 2015, the movie has a domestic gross of $55,749 and an international gross of $204,793 for a worldwide gross of $260,542.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

Cooties holds a 45% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 38 reviews and an average rating of 5.2/10. The critical consensus reads: "A horror-comedy without enough of either, Cooties is fatally content to skate by on its intriguingly oddball premise."[19] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 49 out of 100 based on 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[20]

Kyle Burton of Indiewire gave the film a B+ and said, "Gore can only go so far in the service of humor. Fortunately, the team behind Cooties—which includes Saw creator Leigh Whannell and Glee creator Ian Brennan—manage to pit comedy and horror together in a satisfying package. With mainstay comedy faces, Cootie could reach a larger audience than other similar cultish work. It's the best play on the recent zombie craze, and while not as well-timed as Zombieland, it has the potential to match that movie's success with a wide enough release."[21]

Peter Debruge of Variety said, "Circle, circle, dot, dot. A schoolyard full of anklebiters develops a genuine taste for flesh in Cooties, an irreverent, off-color zom-com that seizes on the scourge of playgrounds everywhere when a spontaneous outbreak of brain-rotting, cannibalism-inducing germs erupts within a small-town elementary school. Told from the teachers’ p.o.v., this tongue-in-cheek midnight movie feels wrong in so many ways, asking a handful of irresponsible adults to bash and bludgeon their way through foaming packs of infected kids in order to save themselves. Acquired by Lionsgate at Sundance, the franchise-ready offering should benefit enormously from one of the distrib’s clever marketing campaigns."[22] Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times wrote, "though Cooties has a reasonable amount of laughs and frights, and though real teachers may find it an apt allegory for the zombielike charges in their classrooms, it’s not really funny enough to achieve grown-up cachet, and it’s too ugly and violent for younger viewers."[23]

Nick Allen for gave the film one and a half stars, saying, "Cooties is meant to be a big joke, but with such a stunted imagination for its story or style, it’s only a single gag."[24] Robert Abele of The Los Angeles Times found that the film started off promising "But as with most of these genre-tweaking romps, the fizz dissipates and what's left are obvious gore beats, lame jokes, uninspired plot mechanics and an inability to end the mayhem satisfactorily."[25]

Home media[edit]

The film was released direct-to-video in the United Kingdom on October 12, 2015.[26] and in Germany on October 15, 2015.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Cooties (2015)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2017-12-28. 
  2. ^ "Cooties (2015)". Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  3. ^ Burton, Kyle (20 January 2014). "Sundance Review: Elijah Wood Vehicle 'Cooties' Is Gross Genre Fun". 
  4. ^ a b Woods, Kevin. "Cooties to open Stanley Film Festival; hits theaters/VOD in September - Horror Movie News | Arrow in the Head". Joblo. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  5. ^ Tyler Doupé (2015-05-20). "Get Infected by this Brand New Cooties Trailer!". Wicked Horror. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  6. ^ Jen Yamato (12 July 2013). "Elijah Wood Horror-Comedy 'Cooties' Catches Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Jorge Garcia, Nasim Pedrad". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Hugh Armitage (15 July 2013). "Cooties will begin shooting today (July 15) in Los Angeles". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Brad Miska (9 September 2014). "'Cooties' Filmmakers Shoot New Ending For Lionsgate". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Tyler Doupé (6 April 2015). "Cooties to Premiere New Ending at Stanley Film Festival". Wicked Horror. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "Cooties". 18 September 2015 – via Amazon. 
  11. ^ "New Poster for Horror Comedy Cooties Debuts -". 30 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Meriah DotyEditorMay 20, 2015 (2015-05-20). "'Cooties' Trailer Pits Rainn Wilson and Elijah Wood Against… Kid Zombies". Yahoo. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  13. ^ "Sundance 2014: Park City at Midnight". Retrieved January 18, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Stanley Film Festival Announces 'Cooties' As Opening Night Film". Indiewire. 2015-03-23. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  15. ^ "Cooties - Fantasia 2015". 
  16. ^ Busch, Anita (21 August 2015). "SpectreVision Unveils Lineup For 3rd Annual Genre Film Festival". 
  17. ^ Rowan-Legg, Shelagh (2 July 2015). "Sitges 2015 Announced: COOTIES, VICTORIA, TURBO KID, SUMMER CAMP And More". 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Cooties (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Cooties Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  21. ^ Burton, Kyle (January 19, 2014). "Sundance Review: Elijah Wood Vehicle 'Cooties' Is Gross Genre Fun". Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Sundance Film Review: 'Cooties'". January 27, 2014. Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  23. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (2015-09-17). "Review: 'Cooties,' Back to School With Zombies and Gore". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-10-30. 
  24. ^ Allen, Nick (2015-09-18). "Cooties". Retrieved 2017-10-30. 
  25. ^ Abele, Robert (2015-09-17). "Review Elijah Wood, Alison Pill and Rainn Wilson run wild in horror comedy 'Cooties'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-10-30. 
  26. ^ "Cooties". Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Cooties" – via Amazon. 

External links[edit]