Tag Archives: killer kids

“Cooties” (2015) REVIEW

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Cooties is an entirely safe, digestible horror-comedy film (more specifically, “zom-com”) that average, passive intakers of horror and comedy will probably enjoy. You know that guy at work, the one who always tells you about new movies you just gotta see — yet you never agree with? He will probably really like this movie and highly endorse it. After all, it’s got that guy from The Office! And zombie kids — whoo boy!

More discerning viewers will probably walk away from Cooties feeling nothing at all, no reaction that is positive or negative. It’s not that there is anything necessarily wrong with Cooties, but there’s nothing particularly right with it either. My ultimate issue with the film is that they took an amusing idea and what could’ve been a subversive, funny movie about zombie kids trying to kill adults — and ended up going a fairly predictable route.

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To be fair, it starts out really strong: we’re in a slaughterhouse watching chickens be plucked, sectioned, and run through an industrial grinder, churning out that familiar pink slime, the one that made the headlines a few years ago. But this pink slime is streaked with green: some sort of infectious bacteria which has the potential to turn kids into blood-thirsty monsters.

From there we cut to a bedroom: a sleeping Elijah Wood is rousted by his mom; it’s the first day of school. Only, Elijah isn’t a student — he’s a substitute teacher. A stalled career in Brooklyn as an author sees him back in his home town of Fort Chicken, Illinois (yes, that’s really the name they chose), living at home with mom and teaching elementary school. There, he reconnects with an old classmate — who is now a teacher, too — as well as a handful of other colorful characters on staff.

That toxic chicken meat we saw a few scenes earlier? It’s now in nugget form and being consumed by a little girl at the school. Soon, she turns into a raging zombie, infecting kids left and right, and bedlam briefly ensues. It’s at this point that movie down shifts into auto-pilot: we go from what could’ve been a prime-era Joe Dante or Fred Dekker flick and ease into something more along the lines of something I could see Kevin James or Josh Gad leading.

Zomcoms have an unfortunate history with being unable to find balance. Usually, the straight forward “this is simply a zombie movie but with humor” films are the ones that achieve the most success, both with major audiences as well as cult collectives: Evil Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Braindead, Shaun of the Dead — hell, any goddamn movie with the word “dead” in the title. The ones that fail are the ones that get too clever, too angle-heavy: Fido, Life After Beth, Warm Bodies. Unfortunately, Cooties falls into this latter category and unsuccessfully thinks the simple premise of “zombie schoolkids” can carry an 88 minute movie.

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The funniest characters happen to be the two guys that wrote the movie, Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan, playing a kooky science teacher and a cocky vice principal, respectively. They feel the most fleshed out and the most unique of the entire cast. And while the always enjoyable Elijah Wood and Alison Pill are well cast as the main leads of the film, everyone else is a one-joke stock character: Rainn Wilson is the macho guy, Nasim Pedrad is the uptight woman, Jack McBrayer is the gay guy. Jorge Garcia is the stoner, and Peter Kwong is the Asian guy. With the exception of Whannell, Wood, Pill, and Wilson, all the other characters barely have a purpose in the movie. They don’t have important dialogue and aren’t necessary to move the plot along or aid in a resolution. They merely exist to perpetuate their one punchline.

In the end, Cooties has a hard time deciding what kind of comedy it wants to go for. I laughed out loud once when, early in the film, Rainn Wilson clotheslines a little girl while running from a horde of zombie kids. But most of the humor is uneven and — worst of all — very safe. Interesting ideas — like today’s kids lack of respect for authority and our culture’s current obsession with knowing where our food comes from — are only briefly touched on and quickly abandoned, and instead more focus is placed upon the Asian janitor who knows kung-fu. Cheap, easy, and safe, if you ask me.

It’s far from terrible. It’s not just anything, really. I don’t know who it’s aimed at, but if you still pay to see Adam Sandler movies in the theater or think Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson/Jack Black/Ben Stiller are the apex of comedy, then you will probably love this movie. It does have a killer poster, though.

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“The Babadook” (2014) REVIEW

The Babadook

This review originally appeared on Letterboxd.

If 60s-era Roman Polanksi and 80s-era Tim Burton had a baby (and lord knows, Roman would try), the resultant drooling beast would be this film.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

Beautifully shot, great set design, and truly terrifying. It lives up to all the hype it’s been receiving.

“The Brood” (1979) REVIEW

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As far as I can remember, this is the first horror movie I ever saw. My mom and sister were watching it on TV, and it scared the shit out of me.
I’ve always preferred David Cronenberg to David Lynch when it came to “what-the-fuck-did-I-just-watch” cinema. In fact, it’s this point exactly that makes The Brood so scary: it’s so far out there…just the idea of what’s happening will give you goosebumps and freak you out. A description of the film from Wikipedia (since I really couldn’t put it into words any better):
“The film depicts a series of murders committed by what seems at first to be a group of children. These are in fact the psychosomatic offspring of a mentally disturbed woman, whose husband fights for custody, and finally the life, of their daughter.” Terrifying, right?

This movie has it all: body horror, killer kids, and even a statement about the topic-at-the-time, Women’s Lib.

“Who Can Kill a Child?” (1976) REVIEW

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When it comes to ‘killer kiddies’, I’d have to say this Spanish film from 1976 is my favorite — far surpassing Village of the Damned and even Children of the Corn. The kids in this film don’t kill because they’re from another planet, and they’re not inspired to kill because some god of harvest told them to — they simply do it because it’s how they ‘play’.

An Englishman and his pregnant wife decide to go holiday before their baby is born, so they head to an exotic Spanish island that they soon find is fairly deserted. In fact, the only inhabitants they do come across are kids, no older than their early teens. Soon, things turn grim as the couple realize the kids possess incredibly cruel and violent tendencies.

What I really love about this movie is, as I mentioned before, that the kids aren’t robotic, silent killers. They laugh and play and run around while killing people. They act like normal children, except incredibly deranged. Also, the title of the film brings up a moral dilemma that seems to be overlooked in all of these ‘killer kiddie’ films: you may think you’re capable of anything if pushed far enough, but when face to face with one, would you be able to kill a child?

Well shot, great score, incredibly tense and filled with jaw-dropping scenes — this is a must see.

“Them” (2006) REVIEW

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There are two genres of horror that really start me up: inbred hillbillies and home invasion. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t get enough of them.

Them (or Ils as it’s called in it’s native country) is a super tense, super scary French home invasion movie from 2006. The pacing is great, aided by the fact that the movie is a concise 74 minutes – trimming all the fat and getting to the action almost immediately and maintaining that agonizing momentum for the rest of the film.

A young teacher meets up with her boyfriend at a new summer home she’s renting in the country. That night, without warning, the couple start being antagonized by a group of outsiders. They struggle to keep the invaders at bay while trying to figure out a way to safety.

The movie, as I said, is a solid 74 minutes of thrilling horror with a great reveal at the end. What I really appreciate is that this film strayed from the New French Extremity movement which was super popular at the time. Not much violence or brutality, which I find refreshing. Some some good old fashioned razor-wire tension which can be far scarier than a bucket of blood.

“Eden Lake” (2008) REVIEW

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Upon watching this movie, initially I was really afraid it was going to take the easy way out and go down the ‘torture porn’ route, but I was pleasantly surprised when that just happened to just be a fleeting moment in the second act. The movie actually borrows from my favorite genre: the home invasion. However in this case, in an interesting spin, the protagonists in this film are actually the interlopers.

A young couple decide to take a woody retreat one weekend. While on a secluded beach, some loud and thuggish youngsters show up and blast music and let their dog run free. The young couple request that they keep it down and keep the dog leashed, to which the kids reply “you’re on our territory”. Here’s where the reversal comes in. Suddenly it’s the good guys who are invading the bad guys territory. The couple is insistent, but the young punks don’t relent. Soon it escalates well beyond what it should and all fucking hell breaks loose. The movies becomes very bad very quickly.

I really, really, really enjoyed this film. I didn’t know what to expect when I started it, nor did I realize the handsome lead was a pre-fame Michael Fassbender, but the movie is full of surprises, including the ending (which I won’t give away). The movie had me edgy the whole time, wondering what was going to happen next. It also brought to mind something that happens on a daily basis: when do you back down? When do you swallow your pride and move on? I guess you never know until you’re being chased by a group of drugged-up teens.