Film Review – Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Here’s a novel idea: zombies! Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) has come way after the living dead made their mark in the mainstream. We’ve seen just about everything this horror subgenre has to offer, there’s really not much left that’s new or refreshing to say. We’ve seen serious zombies, funny zombies, zombies in romantic comedies; you name it, it’s happened. That’s one of the biggest issues going on here – the fact that the filmmakers did nothing innovative with the topic. If we’re going to visit this road once again, we have to get something (anything) that stands out from the dozens, excuse me, hundreds of outings that have come before.
Christopher Landon (who directs and co-wrote the screenplay with Emi Mochizuki, Carrie Lee Wilson, and Lona Williams) decides to mash the zombie motif with a teenage sex comedy. Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller), and Augie (Joey Morgan) are three friends who grew up as boy scouts. Now in their junior year of high school, the boys – namely Carter and Ben – start to gravitate toward other interests. Meaning: getting laid. Their big opportunity comes when Carter’s sister Kendall (Halston Sage) invites them to a super secret party where alcohol and sex are all but guaranteed. Problem is, the night of the party is the same night Augie is supposed to get his final badge from their scout leader (David Koechner). And oh yeah, there’s that little problem with a zombie outbreak also.
The set up is a carbon copy of a much better film, Superbad (2007). The characteristics are almost identical: young, awkward teens desperate for sex but through their adventure realize there’s more to sex and friendship than what they first thought. Only this time flesh eaters stand in the way of our protagonists and their goal. But where Superbad made us care and identify with their characters, Scouts Guide stumbles to draw the same connections. Despite all the talk about brotherhood, I was never made to forget that these people are immature, sex-crazed caricatures, especially Carter. Credit must go to Logan Miller for putting his all into the performance, but Carter is a despicable person. He’s a bully and a misogynist, and the lack of real character development never allowed me to root for him. About 15 minutes in I was praying he would get the zombie treatment.
I was surprised by how openly the writing and direction misused the female characters. Granted, in a story like this events are seen through the eyes of young boys, and I’m guessing that’s also the target audience. But wow, the female characters are drawn like a teenager’s wet dream. The main lead Denise (Sarah Dumont) is masked as a badass chick, but is also a stripper who runs around with a cleavage-bearing tank top and short shorts to accentuate her legs. I enjoyed the scene where the plot stops in midstream so Denise can teach Ben how to seduce a woman (insert sarcasm). Kendall is nothing more than the object of Ben’s affections, and literally disappears from screen when she is no longer needed. The only female that isn’t meant to be the target of a male’s lust is Cloris Leachman, who instead is tasked to be some sort of elderly demon woman. I don’t know if I’m being overly sensitive toward something as outlandish as this tries to be, but it would be nice to have a movie where at least some of the girls can actually play living, breathing people.
But let’s not take away some of the good things going on. One of the better aspects is how the boys use their ingenuity for their survival. Their training in the scouts is put to good use, as they use whatever tools they can gather to make weapons. Augie operates more than just the odd ball. He’s easily the most intelligent and resourceful of the trio, and that knowledge often gets them out of sticky situations. I also appreciated when Landon and his team decided to get super silly with the blood and guts. The special effects are pretty good, and I did laugh at the more ridiculous scare scenes. One in particular involves an attack by zombie kittens, which may go down as one of the funnier (and cutest) scare scenes in recent zombie history. I was onboard when Landon went absurd with the horror; it’s too bad that he decided to undercut all of it with the toilet and sex humor. It’s like the production wanted to play it down the middle, where we’re supposed to take these characters and their relationships seriously even when they spew dick and vagina jokes along their merry way. The pieces never fit together well enough to work.
The absolute worse thing about Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is the “music video” that comes before it. I’m not sure if it was only meant for the screening I attended or if it will be distributed with the film. I really hope it’s not widely released. Backed by a thumping “dubstep” soundtrack, we’re forced to watch about 10 minutes worth of what I could only describe as an acid-fueled, kaleidoscopic montage of images from the movie. Incorporating pictures of the cast, zombies, random food items, and other arbitrary visuals, the music video (I guess) is intended as a kind of advertisement for the film. What it really does is cause nausea. It is straight out awful, and goes on for what seems like forever. Hands down, it’s one of worst things I’ve seen all year. When it was finally over, the audience applauded in relief.