Scouts Guide is far more entertaining than its contemporaries”

by Steve Pulaski

I have to wonder what the critics who had nothing but harsh words for Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse really expected. This is the kind of film that gives you everything you need to know from the poster, let alone the title. In a saturated market, where zombies have flooded theaters and Television to the point where the only real surviving zombie commodity is a cable program, Scouts Guide‘s bravery to come out during the aftershock period for zombies is quite remarkable. It reminds me of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension where, despite the level of quality and competence behind the film, we’re at a point in time when people have stopped caring, about both the aforementioned long-running franchise and zombies, almost entirely.

This is a shame because Scouts Guide is far more entertaining than its contemporaries, both horror and comedy. Its amalgamation of styles creates a film that’s equal parts raucously bloody, and sometimes effectively jolting and scary, and often laugh-out-loud funny. The story concerns boy scouts, Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller), and Augie (Joey Morgan), who are well into their teen years and still partaking in a group generally regarded as something for children. Both Ben and Carter are ready to move on to their next chapter in life, but Augie is still very much invested in the group and its activities. They are led by Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner), who plans a retreat into the wilderness for Augie to earn another one of his prized badges while Ben and Carter plan to tag along only to ditch Augie for a seniors party they’ve been invited to.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Directed by
Christopher Landon
Cast
Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan
Release Date
30 October 2015
Steve’s Grade: B


Soon after camping, and realizing that Scout Leader Rogers is a no-show for some odd reason, the gang begins to see their town become largely deserted in the blink-of-an-eye. With that, a vicious, viral infection leads to the remain townspeople being transformed into flesh-eating zombies. The three team up with Denise (Maxim model Sarah Dumont), a beautiful blonde who works as a cocktail waitress in a strip club, who takes a shotgun to the zombies as the four try and take refugee somewhere in their town.

Scouts Guide is sufficiently spirited and campy enough to work, and just lean enough in its plot and runtime to warrant some kind of a recommendation. It’s hard to find a film like this that can entertain its concept in two polar-opposite genres and do so effectively for a feature film, but writers Carrie Evans, Emi Mochizuki, Christopher B. Landon (also director), and Lona Williams pace the film well enough to work and not exhaust its concept within the first few minutes of the film.

Surprisingly, much of the film is a coming of age story, between three friends beginning to discover different paths from one another that they may take rather than confine themselves to one another. Ben is starting to find himself romantically interested in Carter’s sister Kendal (Halston Sage), while Carter is finding himself very intrigued with party culture, and Augie still unashamedly enjoys boy scouts. As a result, with some guidance from Denise, in the midst of playing defense against the undead, the gang discovers that they have reached a defining point in their life to make a decision as to how they are going to go about continuing their friendship.

I realize none of this is especially groundbreaking, but films like this generally have one agenda and that is to rack up the body count while stupidity unfolds. Granted, there are a handful of times where Scouts Guide‘s love for cursing gets the best of it and results in a film that is ostensibly written by prepubescent teens. However, there are also a number of scenes that are uproariously funny; consider when the infectious snap anthem “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” becomes a pivotal song in the film or when Ben and Carter must defend themselves in a strip club. The simultaneous simplicity and pleasure in watching these characters try and function in a newly lawless land is often the funniest part of the movie and a key to its success. Even the special effects, which are presumably a mixture of both the practical and computer-generated, work to the film’s favor, but doesn’t assert it as a throwback piece of retrospection. This is a film that doesn’t need to operate on fuzzy feelings of nostalgia in order to function.

The final thing I’ll say about Scouts Guide is that despite its geniality, it gets one thing desperately wrong. In one scene, Denise lectures Ben about “manning up” in regards to his crush on Kendal. She states that he needs to be confident in certain situations with women; with that, she spontaneously tells him to kiss her. After some nudging, he finally does and, to Denise’s surprise, he’s not bad at it. “Next time you see Kendal, lay some of that s*** on her,” she says to Ben. Out of all the ridiculous actions characters take in this film, that’s the one I’d advise people against the most.