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Film / Cooties

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"Oh look, carnage!"

Cooties is a Horror Comedy starring Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, and Rainn Wilson. The film centers around an ordinary elementary school that soon changes when a batch of contaminated chicken nuggets transform children both in the school and around the country into ravenous, bloodthirsty savages, and the teachers must fight for their lives.

The film premiered in 2014 at Sundance before being released on digital/VOD formats on September 18, 2015. The trailer can be seen here

Tropes present:

  • Action Girl: Lucy. She volunteers to follow Clint through the air vents, and during the big fight against the zombies in the schoolyard, she's the only one without a weapon... and still kicks ass.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Played realistically — they're small enough that Clint and Lucy are the only ones who can fit through them. So can the kids.
  • All Asians Know Kung Fu: The janitor. Zig-zagged, in the sense that he only seems to know weapon-based Martial Arts.
  • Almighty Janitor: Hitachi can kick some serious ass, and seems to enjoy it to boot.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with the outbreak still in full swing, and the group headed off to somewhere "where kids won't go". Doug seems to believe that, should they travel to the source of the infection, there's a good chance he'd be able to develop a cure to the virus, so it's at least somewhat hopeful.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • A lot of the kids who eventually turn into zombies in this movie are pretty mean, so you won't be feeling sorry for them.
    • Especially Patriot, the kid who calls Arabs, "towelheads," threatens to falsely claim Clint abused him, and bullies Shelley. When he gets his face impaled at the end, you cheer, especially since he's a little shit as a zombie, too.
  • Badass Teacher: A rare example where the students are the enemies. All the teachers manage to hold their own against the students.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Lucy is all cheerful and friendly and seems like the most reasonable member of the group until she gets fed up with Wade's Jerk Jock behavior and she snaps at him and the rest of the group except Clint.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Wade and Hitachi. With the stoner as the driver.
  • Black Comedy
  • Black Dude Dies First: Played straight with a black male teacher named Mr. Peterson. Averted with the black male student Calvin.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Doug is a lunatic, but he's also a bonafide genius who is able to singlehandedly decipher everything relating to the virus over the course of the film.
  • Butt-Monkey: As seen in the trailer, Clint has a hard enough time getting respect from the students.
  • By the Hair: One kid pulls on the Patient Zero’s pigtail and it comes off in his hand.
  • Camp Gay: Tracy, although he doesn't actually admit it until near the end. He tries so desperately to hide his blatant homosexuality that he comes across as a very Transparent Closet sort of character until near the end of the film.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: The vice principal confiscated all cell phones, which are later destroyed by Patriot.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Wade's football skills help him get through a playground filled with zombie children.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: It's safe to say that at least a good majority of the things wrong with Doug can be attributed to when he had a 6 inch spike lodged in his skull as a child.
  • Children Forced to Kill: The idea of children killing (let alone eating) innocent people. That would be any parent's worst nightmare.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Doug. He has terrible social skills, and doesn't even bat an eye when he realizes he wasn't wearing gloves when he examined Clint's fluids with his hands.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The teachers, who weaponize everyday elementary school objects such as jump ropes, cymbals, and baseball machines. Also counts as Mundane Made Awesome.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The movie's pretty colorful despite all the children zombies trying to kill the teachers.
  • Creepy Children Singing: The opening credits feature the journey of a tainted chicken nugget from slaughterhouse to cafeteria, with all the gory details... which would have been disturbing enough without a soundtrack consisting of children chanting gibberish, grinding synthesizers, and what can only be described as a sinister kazoo chorus.
  • Death of a Child: Taken to the extreme. Along with all of the zombies being children, a baby is shown being bitten and transformed fairly early into the movie.
  • Department of Redundancy Department
    Clint: I mean, I thought I would have free time to write, in my free time ...
  • Dissonant Serenity: Doug’s reaction to the zombie attack, as seen in the page quote above.
  • Dwindling Party: Inverted. The group of survivors gradually gets larger as the movie progresses, and everyone who makes it past the first act survives the film.
  • Eagleland: Patriot and presumably his parents are particularly obnoxious Type II examples.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Shelley really didn't see anything wrong with the infected chicken nugget that had strange black-ish lines and dark spots all over it unlike the others, and proceeds to eat it.
    • Wade is too busy shooting hoops to notice children eating teachers right behind him.
    • Also, the mom is distracted by a phone-call, to the point that she does not notice her eldest son is zombified and also does not notice the zombification of her youngest son.
  • Final Girl:
    • Genderswapped with Calvin, as well as a rare child example. Calvin is the only kid left who's not infected by the Cooties in his school. He later joins the teachers to fend off the zombies.
    • Played much more straighter when the group find another uninfected child, Tamra, although like Calvin she is still a rare example of this trope being used for a characters who's far younger than most examples. Turns out Tamra's immune to the zombifying effects of the Cooties, as she's undergoing the processes of puberty. However, it is never shown or mentioned if Calvin went through puberty.
  • Force and Finesse: Wade and Hitachi, the teachers' two strongest fighters, respectively. Wade is a former star football player and human tank, while Hitachi is a mysterious janitor who happens to be a master martial artist.
  • The Fundamentalist: Rebbekah, a right-wing Christian who's obsessed with guns and bemoans the fact that she can't teach creationism in her class.
  • Girls Have Cooties: Patient Zero is (naturally) a girl.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: A rare live-action example at the end of the opening credits, where the aforementioned soon-to-be-Patient Zero picks up an infected chicken nugget, the image of the black-blotched morsel filling the screen and oozing black pus when she takes a bite.
  • Hate Sink: While the film doesn't have a central villain, Patriot is shown to be a major Bratty Half-Pint before getting bitten and serves as the most persistent, prominent and dangerous zombie throughout it.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: The mother picking up her child is so into her phone call on her headset she doesn't notice her child attacking her infant.
  • Heroic BSoD: Wade undergoes a brief one when he kills one of the infected children.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted by Wade. When it looks like he's about to to be ripped apart by the infected children, he throws the keys to his dual rear wheel to Clint, but he's revealed to have fought them off.
  • Hot Teacher: An example with no Teacher/Student Romance. Both Wade and Clint have fallen for Lucy.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The vice principal who confiscated all of the cell phones is seen using them when no one's around.
  • It Can Think: The infected children display a degree of intelligence, particularly Patriot, who manages to rip out the phone lines and mount the dual rear wheel just as the team is leaving the school.
  • Jaded Washout: Wade, an all-star high school athlete who’s now the gym teacher, is heavily implied to be one; he notes that it took this crisis for him to realise he actually liked his co-workers and his job.
  • Jerkass: Patriot, a particularly mean-spirited child whose Establishing Character Moment is to say "Fuck you" to his own mother. And he just gets worse in his next scene, calling Shelley ugly to her face, and spending the last few minutes before he was bitten belittling Clint.
    • And Wade, to a lesser extent, although his reasons were at least understandable and he becomes more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold at the end.
  • Jawbreaker: The infected Patriot has his jaw severely mangled after being thrown from the SUV and hitting the road face-first. He doesn’t seem to care that much about it.
  • Jerk Jock: Wade is a rare adult example.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: See Jerkass above. Wade is an abrasive asshole whose relationship with Lucy verges very closely towards abuse, but he's also shown to genuinely love his job as a teacher, care about his peers and have the qualities of a reliable leader. And in the end, he even ultimately redeems himself in Lucy's eyes as well and learns to be a better boyfriend to her.
  • Kids Are Cruel: When they’re zombies, of course, but they really aren't that much better beforehand, bullying each other and being assholes to the teachers - see Asshole Victim, above.
  • Kill It with Fire: Wade gets rid of the remaining zombie kids by setting ablaze the indoor playground he blocked them into.
  • Knight Templar: Invoked by Patriot's blatantly racist goals for his future, which was apparently to become a Marine just so that he can kill Arabic people. Judging from his aforementioned goals, Patriot wanted badly to grow up into this. Too bad for him that it's not that kind of movie.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Lampshaded by Wade.
    Wade: Remember that suiting-up montage in every action film? This is that scene.
  • Love Triangle: Between Clint, Lucy, and Wade.
  • Man on Fire: In the ending one of the infected kids set ablaze by Wade succumbs to the flames and collapses to the ground after attempting to pursue the survivors leaving Danville.
  • Mood Whiplash: The trailer first plays out like a typical family film taking place in an elementary school, from teachers getting no respect from the students to bullies picking on a girl for her odd blemishes on her face... until one of them accidentally yanks out a pigtail from her scalp and realizes too late that something is wrong.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Clint is a writer, working on a book. The movie pokes some fun at writers asking for criticism from people who don't want to give it, and writers who will take any opportunity to talk about what they are writing.
  • Nausea Fuel: In-Universe, the teachers nearly vomit when Doug shows them his hands. His messy, filthy hands covered in Clint's "fluids".
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: No one suggests the kids are zombies.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Of the not undead but rather virus-infected variety. It turns the brain's grey matter into a gooey, black mass and causes the infected to become vicious, biting, scratching, and tearing apart any adult they can get their hands on. While it’s stated that anyone who went through puberty is immune to the zombifying effects of the virus, only experiencing mild flu-like symptoms, they aren't safe from being mauled to death.
    • Also, the zombies are intelligent. They turn the power off, smash the cell phones, and hide in the vents, and they still exhibit a childish playfulness, although their attention has shifted from playground equipment to parts of their slaughtered victims...
    • Although they display some signs of undead-ness, such as being able to shrug off blunt force trauma that would kill a normal human (eg. Patriot), so it's likely that this virus only makes you undead in the later stages....
  • Patient Zero: Shelley Linker is the first student to contract the virus from a contaminated chicken nugget. During class, she infects Patriot. During recess, Patriot’s friend, Dink also becomes infected while confronting Shelley. Within minutes of becoming infected, Dink converts the entire playground into a horde of feral monsters who quickly devour Mr. Peterson, an unnamed female teacher, and Vice Principal Simms.
  • Politically Incorrect Jerkass: Patriot before zombification, as shown by the way he describes Arabic people.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
    Wade: Naptime, motherfuckers! (Throws match onto gasoline.)
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    Clint: Eat a cock. (drives truck forward and impales Patriot on a chicken ornament)
  • The Problem with Pen Island: Dink points this out when Clint writes his name on the board. The capital "L" and "I" make it look like "CUNT".
  • Refuge in Audacity: The whole movie runs on this, what with not just having violently psychotic children, but having them swear, generally act extremely inappropriately long before they go crazy.
  • Running Gag: Several, like Wade's inability to pronounce "Dual rear wheel" and Doug telling people to be quiet when they're not talking.
  • Sequel Hook: The movie ends with a cryptic comment that hints at the possibility.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Small Town Rivalry: Danville's sign actually proclaims "At least we're not Fort Chicken!"
  • The Smart Guy: Doug the science teacher.
  • Sole Survivor: Calvin is the only student to not get infected. Tamra also counts, although because she’s a post-pubescent, she already has immunity to the virus.
  • The Stoner: The shroom-using crossing guard.
  • The Virus: Like most modern zombie stories, these zombies are caused by a virus. Unlike most zombie stories, this zombie horde is comprised of only one age group (children who have not gone through puberty yet).
  • Title Drop:
    Calvin: That girl Shelley has cooties.
  • Tongue Twister: Betcha had never tried to say "dual rear wheel" before this movie, huh?
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer gives a lot more away than you’d think.
  • Transparent Closet: Tracy, see Camp Gay above. So transparent it's barely a closet. Subverted when he finally admits that he is gay before the first night battle with the zombie kids.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: See the page quote.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Helmet Kid's fate is never revealed.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Lampshaded with Patriot.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Justified Trope, as these specific children are flesh-eating zombies in this case.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Patriot seems to think that this is his origin story before he becomes a badass Marine. Boy, is he wrong!
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Wade’s reaction to immunity simply being having gone through puberty.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Several radio broadcasts reveal that the plague has spread citywide, and by the end, it's spread across America, or at least the midwest.