Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Zombie Violence and Gore, Sexual Material, Graphic Nudity, and Language throughout
Directed by: Christopher B. Landon
Written by: Carrie Evans, Christopher B. Landon & Emi Mochizuki
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage & Cloris Leachman
This past October was so chockfull of new releases that I simply couldn’t get around to covering all of the big screen horror movies and every VOD offering. SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE probably should have made bank opening on Halloween weekend, but alas the film became one of the biggest flops of the year. It’s not as if this flick is horrible, but rather a pointless horror-comedy in a year that’s featured many better films of this genre. If you’ve seen any zombie comedies (e.g. SHAUN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIELAND, or DEAD-ALIVE), then you’ve likely seen a far better version of this film. SCOUTS GUIDE’s gruesome gore and hard-R attitude make for a few brief highlights in a rather mediocre horror-comedy that’s aiming for wannabe cult status.
Ben, Carter and Augie are three scouts preparing for their latest camp out. While Augie loves everything about scouting, Ben and Carter are becoming concerned that their status as scouts could cost them potential popularity in their senior year. When Ben and Carter get an invite to a top-secret party, they plan on ditching dorky Augie in the middle of the night to sneak down to the beer-fueled celebration. However, those plans become complicated as a zombie outbreak is unleashed on the town. With hordes of decaying undead flesh-eating ghouls hot on their heels, the trio of scouts must put aside their petty differences, band together with a shotgun-toting cocktail waitress, and use their skills to save their town from certain doom.
The biggest detriment to this film comes in the overly familiar characters. The whole conflict between Ben, Carter, and Augie has been seen a thousand times before and in better films. In this way, the R-rated comedy also feels extremely simple and geared for a far younger audience than this film is clearly aiming for (with boobs, gore, and frequent F-bombs). Tye Sheridan (who was impressive in indie dramas JOE and MUD) is definitely the best actor here. It’s not as if the other performers are horrible, because the screenwriting is the likely culprit in making most of these people too damn obnoxious and unlikable. Out of the entire cast of characters, only two other performers stick out. Cloris Leachman shows up as a creepy old neighbor and David Koechner does his usual goofy idiot routine as the scoutmaster. They get a couple of chuckles, but were clearly just taking these roles for a quick paycheck (especially given what happens with Leachman’s character later on in one of the film’s grossest moments).
Proudly wearing its hard R rating on its sleeve like a merit badge, SCOUTS GUIDE isn’t above becoming as disgusting as humanly possible in an effort for some shock laughs. Instead of coming off the least bit funny, these moments came off as trying way too hard to get a reaction. I’ve seen variations of these same jokes in other much better horror comedies. The film’s most graphic sequence reminded me immediately of the funniest moment in FEAST. The key difference is that FEAST did a lot with its premise and wasn’t all about gross-outs. Instead, SCOUTS GUIDE seems fairly content to play by your average zom-com rules and throws in lots of nudity as a distraction, which gets quite boring after a while.
At the very least, I will praise the film for its (mostly) practical effects and gore gags. Although it’s just another zombie comedy, it’s clear that effort was put into the zombie kills with blood, severed limbs and guts being used liberally throughout. Some of the best kills come from an impromptu trip to the strip club (keeping true to the T&A angle this film seems so hellbent on) and got some bonafide laughs out of me. Also, I enjoyed how the zombies aren’t strictly limited to humans as a few animals make their way into the mix too.
SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE has good gore for a zom-com and relies heavily on shock value for laughs. The former works, but the latter mostly falls flat. The characters are half-assed and the story is purely by the numbers. Though I didn’t actively hate this film, I should never have been bored in a movie that’s marketing itself as SCOUTS VS. ZOMBIES (which was actually the original title to this film). This is another one of those movies where I would say stick it on if you’re out of options or ideas for what to watch, but just know that there are plenty of horror comedies (even from this year) that are far better than SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE.