Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse wants to be a horror movie, a comedy, a coming of age tale, and a story of friendship put to an extreme test. It wants to be a kind of anti-Goosebumps, a zombie comedy for stoned teenage boys for whom the peak of humor is another teenage boy clinging to a undead cock to avoid falling out of a second story window.
If that crass style sounds like a movie you’re interested in, by all means, go see Christopher “Son of Michael” Landon’s new movie. If not, maybe consider sitting this one out. It’s not even a good zombie movie, unless you’ve never seen one before, then maybe it will provide something new, but there’s not much of interest, and it feels like a short parody video—a Funny or Die or a College Humor skit—stretched out to feature length.
Though they’ve been in the Scouts since they were six, Ben (Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller) are about to become juniors in high school and want to leave the patch-earning, scarf-wearing lifestyle behind, primarily because no one will sleep with them dressed as they are. Still, throughout the course of the movie, they never manage to remove their khaki uniforms, despite ample opportunities. It just so happens that the day they choose to break the news to their fat, nerdy pal, Augie (Joey Morgan), who is apparently the only other person involved in Scouting aside from Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner), a slacker janitor unwittingly unleashes a zombie plague.
What follows plays like simple teen boy wish fulfillment. The trio of well-worn genre tropes—the nerd, the fat kid, and the nerd who wants desperately to be cool—must navigate the landscape besieged by the flesh-hungry undead. Along he way they team up with a stripper, Denise (Sarah Dumont)—sorry, cocktail waitress at a strip club called Lawrence of Alabia—save the day, get the girl, and generally play the hero, a role these kids never fill in real life.
The main three boys each have one-note personalities and rarely, if ever, waver from that—Ben is concerned about being liked, Carter is the wacky one who does things like take selfies with the undead, and Augie, well, he’s the fat kid. Denise is tough and randomly comfortable wielding a shotgun when the need arises, a handy skill to have when the shit goes down, but by and large her personality is made up of cut-off jean shorts, a low-cut tank top, and an almost expressionless face.
Scouts Guide channels earlier movies, trying to present a Superbad-style, vulgar, young male version of friendship, mixed with a pseudo-Zombieland vibe. But instead of anything fresh or unique, all the viewer gets is things that they’ve seen many times before, and even when the script tries to tweak these tired constructs, the result is lame jokes, awkward attempts to be clever that are anything but, and punch lines that evoke groans rather than laughter.
It seems like a damn shame that Tye Sheridan is in this movie. With wonderful turns in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, David Gordon Green’s Joe, and Jeff Nichols’ Mud, among others, and with an upcoming turn in X-Men: Apocalypse that is sure to raise his profile exponentially, this is an obvious misstep on an otherwise high-arc career trajectory. But then again, he’s 18-years-old, young in his career, and roles like this, taken because it was available or because it sounded fun, are inevitable. Let’s just hope there aren’t too many more.
Every female character, even the elderly neighbor cat lady played by 89-year-old Cloris Leachman, is a sex object with an even flatter personality than any of the boys. There are even multiple scenes where the horny teens pause to ogle undead breasts that are inexplicably exposed, because, well, I’m not entirely sure why other than as an excuse to show boobs.
Visually, Scouts Guide is nothing. Shot in a style that resembles a workmanlike TV production, it is bland and typical. When the action kicks in, as it does frequently, the scenes are so horribly hacked up that the editing borders on incoherence, and the viewer can barely tell what’s going on in the jittery jumble of lightning fast cuts, exacerbated even further when camouflaged by a strobe light.
Tasteless and tedious, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a movie that might find an audience on the direct-to-video market, but it’s a head scratcher as to why it is getting a sizeable theatrical run—surely it can’t all be blamed on the Halloween season, can it? The movie accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, and though it delivers what it promises, that’s too dumb to be of any significance. [Grade: D]