SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
Director: Christopher Landon
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Cloris Leachman
MPAA Rating: (for zombie violence and gore, sexual material, graphic nudity, and language throughout)
Running Time: 1:33
Release Date: 10/30/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | October 29, 2015
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse attempts to disguise a rather nasty mean-streak with some cloying, ineffective male bonding. It doesn't work. After all, this is a movie that plays a sexual assault for laughs. According to the movie, that kind of humor is fine, because the perpetrator is a zombie and the victim isn't a very nice person. There's also the moment in which one of the protagonists gropes the exposed breasts of a zombie, which is also just fine by the movie's standards, since the breasts are attached to a zombie and the protagonist is a horny teenager. That's the mentality we're dealing with here.
If done properly, the mentality itself isn't necessarily wrong, but it definitely isn't funny within the realm of this movie, which has nothing else to offer. Well, it does offer plenty of exploding heads and a shot of a zombie's penis being ripped from its body. That's almost something else.
The screenplay (written by Carrie Evans, Emi Mochizuki, and director Christopher Landon) is an exercise in sophomoric humor and a gleeful approach to violence, blood, and gore. The gimmick is that our heroes are teenage boys who are members of a youth organization that provides merit badges for performing proficiency in useful tasks, and no, it's not officially the group of which you're thinking. That organization has its own well-publicized problems with which deal, and I suppose they can be grateful that this movie isn't one of them.
The generic scouts here are resourceful and become quite adept at destroying the brains of the zombies that have overrun their small town. Of course, they also have some time to fight amongst themselves and have some heart-to-heart talks about how important friendship and scouting are to them. That's the cloying part. It might actually have an effect, too, if these characters were anything more than a means to get to the movie's central gimmick.
The heroes are Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller), and Augie (Joey Morgan). The first is the generic boy-next-door type. The second is the generic horny-jerk type. The third is the generic nerd type. There's also the generic girl-next-door type Kendall (Halston Sage), who is Carter's sister and on whom Ben has a crush, and we even get Denise (Sarah Dumont), the generic attractive-bad-ass-woman type who works at the local strip club and wears short-shorts and a tank-top while fending off zombies with a shotgun.
One must grudgingly admit that the movie knows exactly what it wants to be and that all of its elements work toward that existence. It's just that it's a bland, anonymous, and crude state of being.
The three scouts are supposed to have a campout with their scout leader (David Koechner), who quickly turns into one of the undead after being attacked by a zombie deer and the zombie lab technician who works at the facility where the outbreak originates. The joke for the scout-leader character involves repeated acts of extreme violence that he repeatedly survives. He's burned, hit by a car, and exploded before letting out a knowing groan of disbelief. The gag follows the tried-and-true comedic Rule of Threes, albeit with one significant miscalculation: If a thrice-repeated joke isn't funny in its first incarnation, its iterations are just annoying.
Anyway, Carter and Ben bail on the campout to attend a party, and Augie becomes upset when he finds out about the plan. While Ben and Carter try to get to the party and Augie attempts to find his scout leader, they encounter the zombie hordes. Denise helps the boys in their mission to save Kendall before the military bombs the town.
The broad concepts for a few jokes are here, but any time the screenplay comes to a promising start, it falls back on the gross or the obvious follow-through. The group encounters lots of zombies, and lots of zombies are killed off in gruesome ways. It becomes repetitive, although we can see the potential in such scenes as an encounter with a clowder of zombified cats (Poor Cloris Leachman plays their scowling owner) and a trampoline filled with bouncing zombies. That latter scene is when we get the penis-ripping moment. The sexual assault comes later, just before the climax of blood-soaked, strobe-lit chaos involving the scouts' homemade weapons (When Carter learns that he can't get what he wants from one female zombie, he happily kills her and jokes about it).
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is an ugly movie in terms of tone and visuals (not just the gore, either). "What did you expect," you might be asking. To laugh would be a start.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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