1 out of 4 stars
Happy belated Halloween. I certainly hope everyone had a spooky, drunken night of debauchery. The weekend of Halloween is certainly known to be one of my more active weekends, so while recovering, one should indulge on seasonal horror of their choosing. Zombies tend to be of my choosing most mornings, but what do you watch after catching up on The Walking Dead, we delve into zombie “comedy”. A recent addition to a subpar genre, Cooties seemed intriguing.
Children can be little monsters, and when a virus accentuates their already terrifying demeanor, their grubby little fingers can get awfully bloody. In Cooties, a zombie plague has overtaken a suburban elementary school on the first substitute teaching day for Clint, an aspiring novelist recently returned to his hometown to live with his mother. The faculty has to survive the conniving hoard terrorizing their school while bickering amongst their awkward selves.
Elijah Wood plays the central character Clint. This snivelling writer character makes the actor unbearable, and Wood plays him fine enough, annoying with every pitiful, self-involved line. He is surrounded by quirky and usually obnoxious characters from an impressive cast. Rainn Wilson plays tough, and it’s an enjoyable enough role. Alison Pill is given a layerless character with none of the zest she usually possesses. 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer and SNL’s Nasim Pedrad play over-the-top characters and hardly manage a snicker through the movie. Horror regular Leigh Whannell has the most laughs but even greater flubs, but that leads into the worst portion.
The script was simply useless. Snagging the funniest bits in the trailer, the portions outside of those clips was a sad excuse for comedy, mixing together so many little twists and changes that the movie really had no cohesion. The one surviving kid suddenly has a diabetic issue. One of the teachers has a traumatic brain injury, and that’s why he yells a lot. The only thing with particular style is the gore drenched playground, playing tetherball with the decapitated vice principal’s head.
Campy horror, comedic horror, comedy zombies; these are all subgenres that have worked entertainment out of not particularly great work, but Cooties lacked horror and laughs in a disappointing combination of overdone schtick and poor writing choices. A recognizable cast only served to remind the audience that these actors have had much better times. Parody is a difficult game, and when the confines of a school and the openness of a midnight premiere B-movie don’t get worked properly, we all suffer a loss where we really enjoy the absurd.
The Final Girls (2015)
3 out of 4 stars
When campy horror is done correctly, it is a magical thing. Unlike the previously noted Cooties, everything goes so right in The Final Girls. Bringing together a self-aware plot and campy as hell horror parodies, the movie brought laughs and minor horror from a moderately recognizable cast.
Years after leaving behind her 80’s horror past, Nancy Cartwright could never revitalize her career, right up until the end. On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story and being Vera’s daughter) attends a showing of her mother’s inaugural stab fest, pulled from the storyline of Friday the 13th–Jason movies for any unaware. During an emergency evacuation, Max and her friends wind up stuck in the horror movie, and in order to survive, they must survive until the end of the movie and “the final girl” must kill the villain.
Sounds like the start of something terribly painful, but what comes out is pure fun with stylistic flare. A punchy script directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, best known for the Christmas Harold and Kumar movie, pulls gags from slasher movie conventions and utilizes a talented cast with their best features.
The “teens” sucked into the movie match the terror but avoid the camp of the movie characters. Farmiga holds her role as mourning, flannel clad high school senior, playing a less suicidal version of her AHS past. Alexander Ludwig (Cato from The Hunger Games) plays leading man with a silly touch I didn’t anticipate. Nina Dobrev and Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat combat past and present best friend, and both play their part with a scream queen pleasure. Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch highlights this group. Adding to his highly appealing geekery, his character in this movie is overly confident and just as awkward.
The movie cast is exceptional. Embodying the naive virgin, Malin Ackerman is sweet and unwitting as the unaware movie character that is Nancy Cartwright, or is she? Adam Devine plays his usual loud mouthed self, and you don’t hate him for it, but a spectacular death scene can revive some compassion for any character. Highlighting the group is the “slutty girl” Angela Trimbur. Her excessive, non-stop gyrating never gets old, reaching the pinnacle of her breast heavy final dance, completely improvised and fully committed.
Knowing that the movie must end a certain way, writers M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller keep the gags fresh and the progression constant. Allowing a combination of slasher film appreciation (Miller debuted in Halloween III) and absurd humor, the movie has rewatchable pleasure among solid dialogue. If only all parodies had their control.