Scouts Guide an Enjoyably Gory Horror-Comedy Hybrid
Ben (Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller) are calling it quits as far as Scouting is concerned. Their good friend Augie (Joey Morgan) is about to receive their group’s highest honor, and in celebration all three are going to spend the night in the great outdoors along with Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner). But after that? They’re done, only needing a way to let the third member of their trio know it, hopefully not breaking his heart when they do.
When Ben and Carter get invited to a late night party by the latter’s older sister Kendall (Halston Sage), the pair decide to secretly slip away from the camping trip, hopefully without Augie noticing. But things take a wrong turn when he calls them out on their deception, angry that they’d chosen not to invite him along as well as hiding their feelings that remaining Scouts isn’t for them. He’s upset, understandably so, the trio’s friendship put at serious risk as all go their separate ways into the night uncertain if they’ll ever be this close again.
They’re going to have to put all this behind them pretty quickly, because it turns out the zombie apocalypse has hit their town and it’s up to them, along with handy-with-a-shotgun strip club waitress Denise (Sarah Dumont), to help survivors, including Kendall, get to safety. That’s the scenario as it pertains to free-flowing gross-out horror comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. An enjoyable gore-filled trifle, the film is an absurdist combination of Shaun of the Dead, Dead Alive, The Goonies and American Pie, and while things never go anyplace surprising, it’s all so easygoing and good-natured I had a good time watching it even if part of me knew better than to do so.
While one would be forgiven if they assumed all of this was based on (or at the very least inspired by) a graphic novel, video game or comic book, the movie is actually an original idea, the four credited writers – which includes director Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) – making the attempt to do something new. As nice as this might be, I can’t be the only one that sort of wishes the film lived up to its title, would have showcased Ben, Carter and Augie utilizing more of their combined scouting skills to dispatch the zombie horde currently on the attack. Instead, they’re content to use genre tropes fans of these kind of stories will find exceedingly familiar, as such the fun factor is diluted a fair amount.
All the same, Sheridan, Miller and Morgan are terrific heroes, while Sage is a firebrand of ingenuity and determination who elevates every moment she’s a part of. There is a great running gag involving Koechner’s Scout Leader Rogers and his Dolly Parton obsession, while a third act excursion to a hardware store recalls Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive in ways that brought a smile to my face and didn’t reek of creative desperation. Heck, if I’m being honest I maybe enjoyed the final act more than I did anything to be found in the somewhat similar Zombieland save that comedy’s ingenious, brilliant Bill Murray cameo, an opinion I’m almost positive I’ll likely be alone in having.
I wish the great Cloris Leachman was utilized better, and while I respect the attempt at subtlety and character building it should be noted it takes a little too long for things to kick into zombie-fighting gear. But I love the insert of things like zombie deer and zombie kitty cats into the mix, Koechner’s reactions to the former priceless as he attempts to deal with an unfathomable turn of outdoor sportsman events. There are also some splendid gore effects, notably during the secret senior class party Ben, Carter, Augie and Denise show up at in hopes of saving the day, an inventively constructed potato gun one of the better devices this group comes up with to slay the undead.
It’s not a total shock that I’m more open to something like Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse than most viewers are likely to be. That does not mean I was ready to give it a pass heading into the promo screening. If anything, I was wary entering the theatre, and for the life of me I had trouble believing Landon and company were going to be able to pull this type of horror-comedy hybrid off. But they do, more or less, the strengths of the performances and the number of solid laughs winning me over, and as such I’m quite happy I chose to give it a look.
Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)