“SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE” (Movie Review)Home,Movies/TV,News,Reviews Michael Gingold
If you have the possible inclination to see SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, all that really needs to be said is that you should get some friends and some beer and watch the recently released DEATHGASM on VOD instead. But the form requires a more in-depth review, so…
Both SCOUTS GUIDE and DEATHGASM are over-the-top youth-oriented horror/splatter/comedies, yet while there are a number of differences between the two, the crucial one is this: DEATHGASM (reviewed here) was clearly spurred by the passions of its creator, while SCOUTS GUIDE feels like the filmmakers giving the audience what they think those kids want to see. It’s the kind of movie where you keep hearing the pitch (“ZOMBIELAND meets SUPERBAD!”) while you’re watching it, even though it actually originated as a Black List screenplay by Carrie Evans and Emi Mochizuki.
As rewritten and directed by Christopher Landon, a veteran of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise, SCOUTS GUIDE is kind of a throwback to the ’80s—but not in the sense of uncompromising horror. Instead, it harks back to the MTV-ization of cinema, which required that 10 minutes could not go by without a pop song worked in, and the crude, crass comedies that followed in the wake of PORKY’S. The idea of a troop of scouts using their ingenuity to battle undead hordes had possibilities, but instead, we’re introduced to the usual teen types: Ben (Tye Sheridan), the good-looking nice guy pining for a beautiful, unattainable girl, his wisecracking horndog buddy Carter (Logan Miller) and their chubby, dweeby pal Augie (Joey Miller). Although the “Boy” has been deleted from “Scouts,” since that organization understandably demurred from association with this movie, no girls need apply here, unless they happen to be an adolescent male fantasy of a hot strip-club waitress who’s good with a shotgun (i.e. Denise, played by Sarah Dumont).
This Other Scout group consists only of our three heroes and Scout Leader Rogers (an underused David Koechner), the latter of whom doesn’t make it to a camping outing because he has fallen victim to a zombie virus released during a nearby lab accident. It only takes several hours for the plague to sweep through the area and the populace to be evacuated (all offscreen), leaving the trio, who are going through the usual friendship-and-loyalty travails, to alternately run and battle their way through a ghoul-infested night. Their mission: to find their way to a late-night, secret-location party that Ben’s crush Kendall (Halston Sage) is attending.
The movie’s mission is to cram in as much bad-taste, puerile humor as possible, with an occasional good line or amusing bit of business but an overall air of straining for effect. There’s equal-opportunity anatomical slapstick, including a sort-of variation on a classic bit from the aforementioned PORKY’S, and gore galore, the latter well-wrought by genre veteran Tony Gardner and his Alterian team. (Unfortunately, a potentially great setpiece, in the home of a cat lady played by Cloris Leachman, goes unrealized, evidently because the FX budget wouldn’t allow it.) What’s missing is a sense of inspiration or true cleverness—a feeling that the people involved really love this stuff, as opposed to pandering to popular trends and the lowest common denominator of its audience’s taste.
And there’s an irony in the fact that the hard-R raunch makes SCOUTS GUIDE unsuitable for the early-teen viewers who would most appreciate its juvenile humor, and find its gags and scenario fresh. The storyline just ticks off the conventional boxes rather than finding imaginative directions to travel, and even its “highlights” will seem second-hand to those of an appropriate age. In other words, any horror fan young enough to not recognize that a key gross-out moment is cribbed from RE-ANIMATOR is probably too young to be watching it.