Ensemble cast dodges zombie kids in very funny Cooties

COOTIES (Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion). 88 minutes. Opens Friday (September 18). See listings. Rating: NNN

Where to watch: iTunes

If you’re wondering why Cooties didn’t make it into Midnight Madness, well, join the club. An all-star horror comedy with a goofy premise and enthusiastic execution, Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s first feature seems like a perfect candidate to close this year’s program. (I am not as enamoured of this year’s actual closer, The Final Girls.) 

It’s your basic rage-zombie movie, but there’s a twist: the virus only turns children into frenzied killing machines. Not that this is of much help to the teachers trapped in a public school with hundreds of students.

Milott and Murnion embrace every cliché of the zombie genre, which is kind of wonderful when it’s played out at pint-size scale. Leads Elijah Wood and Allison Pill barely look like adults themselves, while co-stars Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer and Nasim Pedrad bring self-awareness and snappy timing to their supporting roles. 

Co-writer Leigh Whannell, clearly happy to be doing something less serious than his Saw and Insidious franchises, also turns up as a science teacher who gleefully researches the virus in as messy a manner as possible.

The ending’s a bit weak, with an extended climax that feels a little too grandiose for the movie we’ve been watching. But up until that point, Cooties is an awful lot of fun.    

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