Cooties (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by
  • Jonathan Milott
  • Cary Murnion
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Ian Brennan
  • Leigh Whannell
  • Josh C. Waller
Produced by
CinematographyLyle Vincent
Edited byBrett W. Bachman
Music byKreng
Distributed byLionsgate Premiere[1]
Release dates
  • January 18, 2014 (2014-01-18) (Sundance)
  • September 18, 2015 (2015-09-18) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Box office$581,080[2]

Cooties is a 2014 American zombie comedy film directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion from a screenplay that was written by Ian Brennan and Leigh Whannell. It stars Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Whannell, Nasim Pedrad, Brennan, and Jorge Garcia as a group of elementary school employees who fight to survive an outbreak among students that turn them into aggressive zombies when someone eats chicken nuggets that contain a virus.

Cooties premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014,[3] before it was released on September 18, 2015, in a limited release and thru video on demand by Lionsgate Premiere.[4] The film received mixed or average reviews from critics.


In Fort Chicken, Illinois, a batch of badly made chicken nuggets containing a mutant virus arrives at Fort Chicken Elementary. A student, fourth-grader Shelley Linker, consumes one of the tainted black-dotted chicken nuggets. Meanwhile, an aspiring horror writer named Clint Hadson substitutes at Fort Chicken Elementary, where he is reunited with his former high school crush Lucy McCormick, whom he learned is dating the physical education teacher Wade Johnson.

During Clint's class, a kid named Patriot is attacked by the blister-ridden and increasingly feral Shelley after he inadvertently pulls a pigtail out of her scalp, with Clint being scratched by her before she flees. After Patriot is taken to the nurse's office, Patriot's friend Dink confronts Shelley while she attempts to dig her way out of the school. Dink plans to report Shelly to the principal's office by turning her in, but Shelley ends up infecting Dink, who then spreads it throughout the playground by scratching the majority of the children before they all proceed to kill several staff members including Mr. Peterson, Vice Principal Simms, and Sheriff Dave.

Later, Clint, Lucy, Wade, and the other surviving staff members (consisting of Doug Davis, Tracy Lacey, and Rebekkah Halverson) are forced to flee the faculty lounge when attacked by Patriot. After escaping to the library and being joined by an uninfected student named Calvin, the staff barricades themselves in the music room. Wade notices Clint has been scratched by Shelley and quarantines him; meanwhile, Doug deduces that Clint is only experiencing symptoms of stomach flu as the virus does not affect adults like it does on children. A sole uninfected student full of wisdom, Calvin concludes that "cooties" are the culprit behind the infection, completely moving the entire staff.

The staff plans to head to the roof at the end of the school day to call out to the arriving parents for help, only to watch the first arriving parent be killed by her own child before they are forced back into the school. As Wade is forced to kill Dink when he followed them into the auditorium, the group is joined by a teenager named Tamra, who they found was scratched by one of the infected kids. Doug concludes from his autopsy of Dink that the infected children are mostly brain dead and the virus only affects people that haven't gone through puberty, meaning that Tamra is safe. As Patriot takes out the power, the group sees that Calvin starts passing out from diabetic shock as they escape with the school janitor Hitachi and take refuge with him.

The group sends Clint through the ventilation system to get a chocolate bar for Calvin, along with Wade's truck keys and their cellphones. Lucy joins Clint and they manage to secure a chocolate bar to bring Calvin out of diabetic shock. Clint and Lucy are separated from the group and get trapped in the library, where they confess their feelings for each other and kiss. Shortly after, Wade apologizes to Lucy for his behavior over a walkie-talkie. Clint knocks out several children with pills and he and Lucy reconvene with Wade and the others as they made themselves improvised weapons. The staff fights their way through the hallway and the parking lot, with Hitachi being overwhelmed by the infected children inside the school, while Wade stays behind to ensure the others get away. Patriot, having hidden in Wade's truck bed, attacks Clint and ends up being crushed against a tree with the truck.

The group continues to the nearby town of Danville (Fort Chicken's rival town) before Wade's truck runs out of gas, finding the town similarly overrun while learning the viral infection has spread across the country. Several children ambush them, and they barricade themselves inside a children's entertainment building where they retrieve a contaminated chicken nugget for Doug to study in hope of developing a vaccine. They are later cornered in a playroom by Shelley and the infected children. Wade and Hitachi arrive in a van and help the group escape the room. Wade uses a massive beach ball to barricade the children inside while spraying them with a water gun filled with gasoline, lighting the gasoline trail to burn the building down. They manage to escape, driving out of the town to "someplace kids don't wanna go" as Shelley burns to death in pursuit.

In a post-credits scene, Hitachi is seen at the school, sitting in a chair and having his snack, and finishes telling a story he was telling the teachers earlier.

In an alternate ending, the remaining adults reach a campground, only to be surrounded by the infected children before cutting the screen to black, leaving their fates unknown. In a flashback sequence, the infected chicken nuggets were shown being delivered to various places across the country, as it is shown that it was delivered to an amusement park, an aquarium, and a family fun center.




The script was written by Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan.[5][6]

The film was produced by SpectreVision and Glacier Films. Hayden Christensen served as an executive producer.[6]


Filming began on July 15, 2013, in Los Angeles, California.[6][7] In September 2014, it was announced that an alternate ending for the film was shot, financed by Lionsgate.[8] The alternate ending debuted at the Stanley Film Festival.[9]


Cooties (Music from The Motion Picture)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedSeptember 18, 2015
GenreFilm soundtrack
LabelMilan Records

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


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.[11] 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.[12] The film went onto screen at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 17, 2015.[13] The film had its Los Angeles premiere on September 3, 2015, at SpectreFest.[14] It has also been selected to screen at the Sitges Film Festival on October 10, 2015.[15]

Box office[edit]

The film was released in the U.S. 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.[citation needed]

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).[citation needed]

The film opened in Malaysia on September 23, 2015. It debuted in eighth 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).[citation needed]

As of July 2020, the film has a reported domestic gross of $60,058 and an international gross of $521,022 for a worldwide gross of $581,080.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Cooties holds an approval rating of 46% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 46 reviews and an average rating of 5.3/10. The critical consensus reads: "A horror-comedy without enough of either, Cooties is fatally content to skate by on its intriguingly oddball premise."[16] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 49 out of 100 based on 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17]

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, Cooties 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."[3]

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."[18] 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."[19]

Nick Allen of 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."[20] 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."[21]

Home media[edit]

The film was released direct-to-video in the United Kingdom on October 12, 2015.[22] and in Germany on October 15, 2015.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Cooties (2015)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  2. ^ a b "Cooties (2015)". Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Burton, Kyle (20 January 2014). "Sundance Review: Elijah Wood Vehicle 'Cooties' Is Gross Genre Fun". IndieWire.
  4. ^ a b Woods, Kevin (7 April 2015). "Cooties to open Stanley Film Festival; hits theaters/VOD in September - Horror Movie News | Arrow in the Head". Joblo. Retrieved 2015-06-13.
  5. ^ Doupé, Tyler (2015-05-20). "Get Infected by this Brand New Cooties Trailer!". Wicked Horror. Retrieved 2015-06-13.
  6. ^ a b c Yamato, Jen (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. ^ Armitage, Hugh (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. ^ Doupé, Tyler (6 April 2015). "Cooties to Premiere New Ending at Stanley Film Festival". Wicked Horror. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  10. ^ "Cooties soundtrack". 18 September 2015 – via Amazon.
  11. ^ "Sundance 2014: Park City at Midnight". IndieWire. 10 January 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  12. ^ Sharf, Zack (2015-03-23). "Stanley Film Festival Announces 'Cooties' As Opening Night Film". Indiewire. Retrieved 2015-06-13.
  13. ^ "19th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival". Fantasia Festival. Archived from the original on September 24, 2018.
  14. ^ Busch, Anita (21 August 2015). "SpectreVision Unveils Lineup For 3rd Annual Genre Film Festival". Deadline Hollywood.
  15. ^ Rowan-Legg, Shelagh (2 July 2015). "Sitges 2015 Announced: COOTIES, VICTORIA, TURBO KID, SUMMER CAMP And More". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Cooties (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 4 November 2023.
  17. ^ "Cooties Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 2014-07-23. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  18. ^ Debruge, Peter (January 27, 2014). "Sundance Film Review: 'Cooties'". Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  19. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (2015-09-17). "Review: 'Cooties,' Back to School With Zombies and Gore". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  20. ^ Allen, Nick (2015-09-18). "Cooties". Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  21. ^ Abele, Robert (2015-09-17). "Review Elijah Wood, Alison Pill and Rainn Wilson run wild in horror comedy 'Cooties'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  22. ^ "Cooties". 12 October 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  23. ^ "Cooties". 15 October 2015 – via Amazon.

External links[edit]