In Cooties, it’s THE children who shuffle and chomp, hungry for the flesh of the living.

Patient zero is a girl infected by a rancid chicken nugget in the cafeteria of a small-town elementary school, and the zombifying virus seems only to affect those beneath the age of puberty.

The school’s teachers, meanwhile, make do as our motley heroes, locked in the building on permanent recess and besieged by the shrieking adolescent mass outside. The covert theme is exactly the punchline evoked by this premise: teachers certainly have it tough.

Cooties is scary and fun, and its co-directors, Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, have clearly learned a lot from the Shaun of the Dead approach to the zombie pictures.

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Milott and Murnion are interested in the brain-eating carnage that is the zombie film’s bread and butter. They are well-aware, too, of the conventional dictate that restricts violence against children in the movies, and they delight in the freedom the genre affords to dispatch kids in ludicrously gruesome fashion.

The shock is resolutely comic. Who doesn’t love when fourth-graders get brained and splattered? We kid! It is fun to watch.

Elijah Wood’s hapless lead, a once-ambitious writer who, like Simon Pegg in Shaun, feels unaccomplished in a job less glamorous than the one he imagines he deserves.

When our teacher heroes first discover that their students have been reduced to insatiable bloodthirst and wonder aloud what might have caused it, for instance, Cooties can’t resist a quick joke: “I blame rap music,” offers Doug (Leigh Whannell), the movie’s broadest comic relief. This film is a lot of fun and worth seeing.

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It opens today in select theaters and on VOD.

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