Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse opens on Blake Anderson from Workaholics (here simply Ron the Janitor) dancing to an Iggy Azalea trap beat. Marvelous. Ron then single-handedly starts the zombie apocalypse. Double marvelous. The dramatic irony and use of space in this opening is great. It might be the best scene in the entire movie comedy-wise.
We then see a dated-looking boy scout recruitment tape led by the comedic styling of David Koechner. Scout Leader Rogers’ (Koechner) Boy Scout Troop 264 is comprised of three archetypal scouts: the brown-nosing overachiever Augie (Joey Morgan), the apathetic burnout Carter (Logan Miller), and the reluctant leader Ben (Tye Sheridan).
When Ben and Carter decide to ditch Augie for a rave that appears to take place in a warehouse (although it is labeled as a rec center, but this is all besides the point), the two boys stumble upon the zombie invasion after the city has already been evacuated. They then must venture to the party, whose attendants are also unaware of the unique goings-on in their little city, to save everyone.
Although a horror comedy, Scout’s Guide is directed by Christopher Landon, the director of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. He is also the pen behind Paranormal Activity 2-4. As such, false jump scares are to be expected. Unfortunately, he does not disappoint. Where there isn’t a gag about sex (more on this later), there is sure to be a scream and a crash just around the corner.
Our three scouts are played very well by their respective actors. The three boys and Sarah Dumont hold up the acting end of this movie surprisingly well. Not everything about the character’s narrative threads are stellar, though.
Sex-obsessed Carter, our wisecracking sidekick for the proceedings is, well, sex-obsessed. And it shows in many of the jokes he makes. He is either making a sex joke or taking inappropriate selfies. That is the extent of his comedic relief.
The romantic sub-plot between Ben and Carter’s sister Kendall (Halston Sage) is cliche and essentially glossed over as a screenwriting necessity. Kendall herself only appears in the beginning and ending of this movie, just in order to keep this subplot a reality. Her entire character is this subplot.
The film has some heart when it comes to its characters. Their histories with one another are grounded, and it is clear that they care about each other. However, this heart is exploited for conventional means throughout the film. Add to this the crude way in which the film carries itself overall, and whatever heart this film has to offer is tarnished.
Some scenes in this movie are comically effective. The opening sequence, for one. The use of a zombie stripper is actually an effective use of the film’s sexual comedy, at least for a moment. The use of Dolly Parton, Britney Spears, and an old cat lady’s cats all make for fun moments. These moments of solid comedy, however, are overshadowed by the overuse of sexual and scatological humor that has all been done before.
Horror comedies are most effective when they use the genre’s cliches and conventions to their advantage. This movie, instead, uses them just as your standard, uninspired horror movie would use them. Cell phones mysteriously stop working. The blatant use of sex appeal is merely a means to sell the film. And the most egregious misuse of all is the gaudy use of grating sound effects to employ both scares and laughs. The jump scare sound effect is simply not a sound I want to hear in a movie. It is a loud and grotesque sound that makes no diegetic sense.
Given its strong lead performances, Scout’s Guide still under-utilizes its casting. Koechner’s character doesn’t play nearly a large enough role in this film as the man’s comedy warrants. Same goes for Anderson, whose cameo is great, but, considering how strong that scene is, could have had a larger role to play. Finally, Cloris Leachman is in this movie, but you could easily miss her given her singular scene as a non-zombie character. I mean, the woman essentially has an EGOT (I’m counting her TV Land Award win as the T in this case), the least you could do is give her more lines than snarls.
In the end, Scout’s Guide wants to be Zombieland but falls closer to Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave. The over-reliance on sexual humor hinders its narrative thread of betrayed friendship. Some of the situation-based humor is effective, but it doesn’t make up for poor gags using naked zombie parts and the like.
Solid acting from our young leads is crippled by sub-par scripting and a plot trying to succeed on premise alone. Ultimately bringing nothing new to neither the comedy nor the horror genre, Scout’s Guide is a forgettable addition to either genre.
This movie is kind of a misstep for young Tye Sheridan. I mean, he acts well in this movie. But, just looking at his IMDb “Known For” movies is strange: Mud, Tree of Life, Joe, and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Those first three films, the first three films of his career, are all great, and he’s great in them. I want to see Sheridan in more of those roles, and less of these kitschy comedy roles.
As always, thanks for reading!
Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is currently available to rent/buy on Amazon Video here.
Have you seen Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)