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40 Things We Learned From the Cooties Commentary

“I never do commentary with pants.”
Cooties Chicken Nuggets
Lionsgate Premiere
By  · Published on December 2nd, 2015

Cooties is something of a rarity in that it’s a legitimately funny horror/comedy. It’s not all that scary, but it delivers some fun gore and gleefully kills off several kids along the way. After premiering at Sundance nearly two years ago it finally hits Blu-ray/DVD this week, and while it’s worth buying for the movie alone the special features add some extra fun including a commentary track loaded with members of the cast and crew.

Keep reading to see what I heard on the Cooties commentary.

Cooties (2015)

Commentators: Rainn Wilson (actor), Elijah Wood (actor), Jack McBrayer (actor), Alison Pill (actor), Ian Brennan (co-writer, actor), Leigh Whannell (co-writer, actor), Jonathan Milott (co-director), Cary Murnion (co-director)

1. Whannell is recording his part of the commentary in Barcelona, Spain, which should not be confused with Barcelona, CA. “So that makes me better than you,” he tells the others.

2. The unnamed chicken wrangler is played by the film’s first assistant director Joe McDougall. They assure the listeners that the chicken McDougall “kills” was actually already dead.

3. They shot the opening credits sequence showing the creation of a chicken nugget in a warehouse in Brooklyn.

4. Pill says her favorite shot in the movie is the one showing Wood’s childhood photo. “That was taken just a month before shooting,” adds McBrayer.

5. Whannell first heard the concept for the film from producer Josh Waller who originally described it as a serious horror film. Whannell wanted the writing job, but he was compelled to point out that with a title like Cooties the film had to be a comedy.

6. The script featured a stage direction (for the reader) regarding the “dual rear wheel” joke that said simply “Now try and say it.” Wilson actually managed to drag the bit out for a couple minutes without cracking a smile, but the same couldn’t be said for the other cast members.

7. Wilson was given that trailer hitch chicken after production wrapped.

8. The kid in the safety helmet glimpsed as Clint (Wood) is walking across the parking lot towards the school is played by Jared Breeze who also stars as the title character in Wilson’s other genre effort this year, The Boy.

9. Whannell would repeat his opening line to himself as a way to get into his American character. “It’s a scorcher out there.”

10. There’s some confusion among the commentators as to who starred in Deep Blue Sea ‐ some seem to think it was Jason Patric, but Whannell straightens them out (after checking IMDB in Spain presumably) that it was Thomas Jane. The takeaway here is that Deep Blue Sea features one of Wood’s favorite death scenes. Yes, that one.

11. One of Whannell’s first scenes on the film was the bit with his character, Doug, wearing the Velcro body parts. “I had all these kid actors staring at me, and after take two the kid in the front row looked at me and goes ‘That was better.’”

12. There’s a brief moment of concern as to whether they can say “cunt” on the commentary track, but they ultimately agree that since the film is R-rated then the commentary can be as well.

13. Pill schools everyone on how chalkboards work, but they do not seem all that appreciative. “Some people were friends with their chemistry teachers, okay?” she says. “Just whatever. Some of us are cool.”

14. The vaginas on Patriot’s (Cooper Roth) cell phone are actually pictures of armpits. “We took out-of-focus armpit shots,”says Wood.

15. The behind-the-head tracking shot as the blond kid runs across the parking lot towards the digging girl was “totally stolen from [Gus Van Sant’s] Elephant” according to Wood.

16. The group realizes a missed marketing opportunity when Wilson mentions a game/app called Plague that his son plays. “You start a plague, and you destroy everyone on Earth.” Pill is unclear why people would want to play such a thing, but I’m upset that I can’t seem to find it for my phone.

17. Pill and Brennan have none each other since she was eighteen years old (in 2003) when they did a play together in New York City. Other recognizable names in that play include Anna Paquin, Melissa Leo, Josh Charles, and Logan Marshall Green.

18. The overhead shot of Vice Principal Simms (Brennan) being torn apart and eaten by the kids was apparently shot with diminutive stand-ins. “We had a legion of tiny stunt people,” adds Wilson.


19. They considered Patriot to be their equivalent of Spike from Gremlins. “I thought you meant in Buffy [the Vampire Slayer],” says Pill, “because he was also really smart and a great villain.”

20. They had a stuntman on standby for strenuous scenes with Wilson’s character, but the actor did all of his own action. This was his first time playing a “jock,” and he enjoyed it immensely.

21. They came up with a “star vehicle” for McBrayer during production called Still Rolling, but before Whannell can describe what it is he’s shut down by the others who seem to think it’s something they should really make happen. It’s currently my most-anticipated film of 2017.

22. They apparently considered setting the film in the ’80s just to get around the whole cell phone issue before ultimately writing in the scene where Simms is seen collecting everyone’s phone.

23. Wilson’s son is seen in the montage of infected kids playing in the parking lot ‐ he’s the one jump-roping with intestines.

24. They point out multiple instances where the film was changed between its premiere at Sundance 2014 and ultimate theatrical release in September of this year. The cast members are surprised at several of the changes, but many of missing bits they mention are available as deleted scenes elsewhere on the disc.

25. Calvin (Armani Jackson) sang a patriotic song in the original cut of the film ‐ it’s available in the deleted scenes ‐ and Wood thought it was a real song. It’s not and was instead written just for the film.

26. There are a handful of scenes in the film where the infected kids were supposed to act menacing and terrifying including the shot of them clawing at the window and chasing the gang across the darkened classroom after the janitor appears. They weren’t quite delivering though so Waller took it upon himself to show them what they needed to do. “He scared the shit out of them,” clarifies Wilson.

27. Whannell’s wife insisted the film include a character saying “Circle circle dot dot, now you have a cooties shot.”

28. A few of them do impressions of Jeremy Renner, and it’s a magical moment that doesn’t last nearly long enough.

29. They’ve discussed a sequel. “Cooties 2: Cruise Control,” suggests Whannell. “Jason Patric’s gonna make a cameo for sure.” He kids, but their serious talks on the subject involved exploring where they go in the van in the end. “I felt like it should be the band of teachers roaming the wasteland,” says Whannell.

30. Far more of the teachers died in earlier scripts, but Whannell credits/blames the cast for being too good to the point where they didn’t want to kill anyone off.

31. The group spontaneously erupts in unprompted praise for Wood at one point. “He lives in a world without pain or fear,” says Whannell. “Also he heals the sick,” adds Wilson, “with his eyes.” He’s also never complained about anything, and his tears can cure AIDS.

32. Wood recalls one of the Sundance screenings where an audience member stood up for the Q&A and simply said “thank you.” She was a teacher and appreciated how the film acknowledges teachers in between gags and acts of violence.

33. Wade’s (Wilson) line ‐ “You remember how in that movie Commando, and every other ’80s action film, there was that suiting-up montage? Well this is that scene.” ‐ was originally only a stage direction (ie not a line of dialogue) in the original script, but he read it in character during the initial cast read-through, and everyone loved it.

34. Wilson likes that Wade’s line as he sacrifices himself ‐ “Take care of her.” ‐ could mean Lucy (Pill) but could also mean Wade’s truck.

35. The original cut featured Wade dying at the school, but later re-shoots added him back for additional scenes once the group hits the road.

36. The comment that occurs in most commentaries occurs here at the 1:15:25 mark.

37. A Cooties movie poster is visible outside the theater when the truck comes to a stop on the deserted street. “And A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” adds Wood. “It was a dumb idea that we had, and we just had the posters handy.” Both films are produced by Wood’s production company, SpectreVision. They didn’t think the camera would pick them up so clearly, and “it turned out to be a terrible idea.”

38. One of the original endings ‐ written but not filmed ‐ featured the gang reaching a retirement home and discovering that the virus affects old people just as it does the children.

39. Whannell wants the others to acknowledge that Doug’s line ‐ “Nugget outta here!” ‐ gets a big laugh in theaters. He adds that a lot of people were skeptical about the line, and on that point everyone seems to agree. “A lot of people are still skeptical,” adds McBrayer.

40. There’s a post-credits scene, but the gang signs off well before it hits so they have nothing to add.

Best in Context-Free Commentary

Final Thoughts

Commentaries with too many speakers typically suffer as they all try to compete, but this is an exception to the rule and instead delivers one of my favorite listens in ages. Both co-directors are essentially drowned out by the more boisterous and comedically-confident actors, but it’s a small price to pay for the amount of laughs we get here. Everyone manages some good bits, but Whannell in particular is just on fire ‐ to the point that I immediately checked to see if he did a commentary on Insidious. (He did not.) The track is informative too, but the big draw here is pure entertainment.

Check out more commentary commentary in the Commentary Commentary archives

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.