Cooties: Children are Disease Factories – YouTube (w/ads) Review/Reader Request

A zombie virus starts tearing apart an elementary school.

Zombies have pretty much always been an ideal monster to work into comedies. On their own, they’re not particularly threatening, as they are usually slow, unintelligent, and, since they come in mobs, can be killed repeatedly on film without really diminishing the overall threat. Even the original modern zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, had two different much more humorous sequels, Return of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Because of this, zombie comedies have been mined heavily over the years, but every so often, a new comedy uses the genre well and makes it hilarious again, ranging from Shaun of the Dead’s satire of modern life to Zombieland’s witty banter mixed with over-the-top zombie kills. Unfortunately, I think it’s the run of great Zombie comedy films that hurt this movie when it came out, because, while it is funny, it’s just not quite as good as some of its competitors. However, that doesn’t mean that you should overlook it, because it has a few elements that set it apart.

They still have the “people gearing up with nontraditional weapons” sequence.

Taking place in “Fort Chicken,” Illinois, a fourth-grade student eats a contaminated chicken nugget, and because, let’s be honest, that’s up there on the list of most likely causes of an outbreak, she soon starts to turn feral and develop skin lesions. This is our version of zombie for the film, and rather than Romero shamblers, they’re closer to small 28 Days Later running virus zombies, although at times they have better problem-solving skills. The first student scratches her substitute teacher, Clint (Elijah Wood), who will mostly be our protagonist throughout the film. He’s an aspiring horror writer who has had a crush on the same girl, Lucy McCormick (an underappreciated Alison Pill), since high school. Naturally, she’s dating the gym teacher, Wade, played amazingly well as a supermacho dork by Rainn Wilson. Other people at the school are played by Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, Peter Kwong, and Nasim Pedrad as the absolutely hilarious ultra-religious teacher. When all of the children start to become killing machines, it’s assumed that Clint is next… only for it to be revealed that the virus only works on children. The group hides with Calvin (Armani Jackson) and Tamra (Morgan Lily), the only two uninfected kids, and have to find a way to survive the school day. 

They’re screwed.

There are a lot of funny moments in this movie, like how one of the security officers, played by Jorge Garcia, is on shrooms and hallucinates a random giraffe, or how the doctor character seems incapable of remembering to use gloves. The overall premise, having children that are constantly attacking and murdering adults, largely because adults ignore them at first, is pretty great. They do a decent amount of sunshine horror (scenes in bright light) featuring a playground of tiny cannibals, but then also have the traditional low-light scenes in the school. Since most of the kids are around 7-10, they’re all tiny, which makes it kind of inherently hilarious that the adults are terrorized by them. It’s a decent idea.

Granted, a mob of goblins is still a threat for a reason.

There are two main problems with this film, though. The first is that they really don’t do much with the set-up during the second and third acts. Aside from the occasional sight-gag, they don’t treat the kid zombies much differently than regular zombies. It also doesn’t really play up a metaphor or anything the way that most zombie movies do, despite the fact that there a lot of prime opportunities. The second problem is that there is a lot of filler humor, where the jokes are there but they’re not blowing your socks off or really adding to the movie. Some of these work, but a lot of them just produce polite chuckles. Sometimes just focusing on the really good gags and playing the rest straight is the way to go. Granted, with so many talented people, even some of the gags that shouldn’t have worked did. 

Elijah Wood is always a plus to horror movies.

Overall, it’s still a pretty solid comedy, it just has the burden of competing against a really good subclass of film.

Amazon Prime Review – Never Too Young to Die (1986): John Stamos, Gene Simmons, and Absolutely No Restraint

If you aren’t listening to the Podcast “How Did This Get Made” with Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas, you are missing out. Not just because these are three of the best comic minds I’ve ever heard take a movie apart (they don’t really “Riff” MST3K style, so I’m not disparaging my childhood hero Crow T. Robot), but because they expose me to levels of terrible movie that I previously might never have known existed. And for that I am eternally grateful. However, when I watched this particular film, I couldn’t resist writing my own take. I’m publishing this today just so that I won’t be tempted to borrow observations from them when the episode is released tomorrow.

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A question for the ages.

Also, the movie’s available on Amazon Prime if you didn’t get that from the title.

SYNOPSIS (IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO SPOIL THIS FILM)

The movie starts with a cultish rally of the minions of psychopathic hermaphroditic (masculine pronouns) nightclub singer and supervillain Velvet von Ragnar (Gene Simmons). If you aren’t sold just from that sentence, you don’t have music in your soul. Ragnar discovers that a key component to his plans to poison the water supply of Los Angeles has been stolen by Secret Agent Drew Stargrove (George “This was a paycheck” Lazenby). Ragnar ends up killing Stargrove, only for him to have already gotten rid of the component. After the funeral, his gymnast son, Lance Stargrove (John Stamos), finds out that part of his father’s will is a farm whose only resident is Danja Deering (Vanity of Vanity 6), another secret agent that he rescues from Ragnar’s leather-clad henchmen. Together, they foil Ragnar’s eeeeeeeeevil scheme, with the help of Lance’s roommate, convenient super-genius inventor, Cliff (Peter Kwong).

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You can see Lazenby think “was it worth the paycheck?”

END SYNOPSIS

This movie is everything. There should be ballads composed to celebrate it. There should be national holidays dedicated to it on which people consume copious amounts of alcohol and cocaine so that they can hit the proper state of Zen that resulted in its creation. I’d say there should be a song just celebrating the main character, but, oh wait, THERE’S ONE ALREADY IN THE FILM. Yes, Lance has his own theme song during the opening credits as he displays his ultra-super-gymnast skills and it is every 80s pop music theme. And, you lucky bastards, I found you a copy of it:

Lance is basically one of those characters who has been training for this job his entire life without knowing it. He is a gymnast, can fight reasonably well, has a collection of gadgets that his roommate randomly invents that all turn out to be useful, shoots nearly perfectly, does motorcycle stunts, has a quick… well not really wit, but what the movie wants you to think is wit, and has the hair of a young John Stamos. He’s basically a prefab action hero, albeit in the vein of Gymkata. All of this despite ostensibly never knowing what his father does for a living.

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THERE IS SO MUCH HAIR IN THIS MOVIE

Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that Gene Simmons wrote all of Ragnar’s lines, because he is so into the role that all the ridiculous crap he’s saying comes off as sincere… which makes it so hilarious I had to pause the film to finish laughing. Compared with all the other films I’ve watched him in, this is the most in-character I’ve ever seen him. (Good Rule of Thumb: If Simmons’s character has a name in the film you’re watching, it’s not a good film). His outfits would make RuPaul either angry or jealous. There is no in-between. Also, he has whatever random ability the scene requires. He’s a master of disguise, a supergenius, has an evil empire, is ridiculously strong, is a master of infiltration, and also sings like Gene Simmons (okay, that last one makes sense). He should have already enslaved humanity before the movie started. Also, I’m like 90% sure that Gene Simmons wrote the IMDB summary for this film.

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The rest of the band is actually made up of transvestites who gave him tips. No, really.

The supporting characters are all as 80s as it gets. Ragnar’s henchmen are either leather-clad goons leftover from The Warriors or the uptight evil scientist played by… Robert Englund? Yes, despite only being 2 movies into the Nightmare on Elm Street series, Freddy Krueger appears in this film. And, to be fair, he’s far and away the best actor. George Lazenby is only in the movie for a few minutes, but, since he was James Bond, his portrayal of a superspy is pretty on-point. Vanity… well, she’s every 80s female spy. She’s super tough and confident at the beginning, but, of course, her incompetence and tendency to not be fully clothed gets her captured so the guy can save her despite her spending years as a secret agent and him being a gymnast who hasn’t killed anyone before this. And yes, she “thanks” him for saving his life. I’m sure glad women’s roles have improved (*glares at camera*). Actually, they have, but this was a really low bar. And then there’s Cliff.

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“Welcome to my nightmare!” “That song’s by Alice Cooper” “Song?”

Cliff is Q except that he spends his time just supporting Lance rather than becoming rich or saving the world. He makes several devices during the film, including the laser-flamethrower which he uses during the climax, which should have made him wealthy, rather than just helping his buddy cheat at chemistry tests. He also has zero problems following Lance into an armed refinery filled with gun-toting psychos and killing a bunch of them. I think following his story would be so much more interesting than the actual story, because he’s definitely going to take over the world after the credits roll.

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Lance, do you think my MacGuffin is cool? Tell me, Lance!

There is also one scene that absolutely needs to be addressed. When Lance turns Danja down the first time, she attempts to seduce him by wearing a bikini, oiling herself up, taking her top off, and hosing herself down, all while Stamos walks into the house 3 times, each time coming out with a different food or drink item. Finally, he gives in and the sex scene that follows is… weird and confusing, since it makes it seem like he throws her on the bed like 3 times. Even for film sex scenes with gratuitous nudity, this is crap. However, it’s crap with boobies, John Stamos, and saxophone music, making it thoroughly enjoyable.

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#Feminism

Overall, obviously, I loved this film. Everyone involved clearly seemed to think they were making a much better film, which is the hallmark of a “so bad, it’s good” movie. Give it a try sometime.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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