SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Christopher Landon

Stars: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Cloris Leachman, Halston Sage, Lukas Gage, Niki Koss, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Hiram A Murray, Blake Anderson.

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse is an offbeat mix of zombie horror and juvenile humour that could best be described as The Walking Dead meets American Pie.

Initially I had low expectations for this film, as the trailer made it seem like a low budget B-grade horror film and a throwback to 80s cinema and the early days of Peter Jackson or Sam Raimi. But Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse turns out to be a rather enjoyable mix of splatter horror, gore and buckets of blood, and teenage coming-of-age comedy with plenty of puerile humour, nudity and sex jokes. Like the superb and superior Shaun Of The Dead and Zombieland from a couple of years ago this film plays the walking dead for laughs – and for the most part it works.

We meet a couple of boy scouts in the form of shy, virginal Ben (Tye Sheridan from the excellent Mud and Joe, etc) and his friend the sex obsessed Carter (Logan Miller, from The Stanford Prison Experiment, etc). They have remained in the scout movement mainly for the sake of their overweight misfit friend Augie (newcomer Joey Morgan, in his film debut), whose father died a year earlier. They are planning on leaving the scouts behind believing they have outgrown it. Their involvement in the scouting movement has also led to them being regarded as nerds and social outcasts at the local high school.

The boys are preparing for an overnight camp out when Augie will receive his Condor Badge, a huge honour. But Carter would rather go to a huge party that night and pressures Ben to sneak away at night. They ditch Augie in the wilderness, but when they reach town they discover that a mysterious virus has turned most of the town’s population into zombies. A slacker janitor at a nearby biolab has accidentally unleashed a virus on the population. The military has managed to evacuate many people to a nearby safe haven, and are preparing to bomb the town to wipe out all remains of the virus.

Ben and Carter team up with Denise (Sarah Dumont, from Don John, etc), a tough, no-nonsense cocktail waitress at the local strip joint. They have to try and find the secret location of the dance party before the zombies find it or the army bombs the town. He becomes a reluctant leader during the course of the night, and ends up saving the day using the skills he has learnt as a scout. The climax is a deliriously bloody showdown as the boys use improvised weapons from a hardware store to take down hordes of zombies.

The script has been penned by Carrie Lee Wilson and Emi Mochizuki, and is laced with a strong streak of dry, sarcastic humour and touches of politically incorrect raunchy adolescent humour typical of films like the American Pie franchise and Superbad and their ilk. But it also touches on timeless themes of friendship, first love, adolescent angst, being true to yourself, etc.

The director is Christopher Landon, who is better known for his work as a writer on the thriller Disturbia, which was essentially a teen remake of the classic Rear Window, and his work on the Paranormal Activity franchise with its found footage aesthetic. Landon directed the previous instalment of the franchise The Marked Ones, and he obviously loves the zombie movie genre, and has a good understanding of the tropes and there are numerous nods to classics of the genre. This is something of a change of pace for Landon, but he maintains a fast pace throughout Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse. He has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek for much of the time, but its strong streak of R-rated misogynistic humour will mainly appeal to adolescent males.

With his performances in in the dramas Mud and Joe, Sheridan has shown himself as one of the more charming and charismatic performers of his generation. He has delivered consistently strong and compelling performances as a teenager who forms an unlikely friendship with men with a dark past. Here he is able to lighten up a little, but he still delivers another strong performance. Miller has a lot of fun as the delightfully crass Carter, while Morgan brings a vulnerability to his role. The boys are fully developed characters, and we come to care about them as the night wears on. The relationship between the three boys is reminiscent of those 80s coming of age classics like Stand By Me and The Goonies.

Dumont also has a strong presence as a kick arse action heroine in the Linda Hamilton mold. The solid support cast includes David Koechner, who is very funny as Rogers, the earnest Dolly Parton obsessed scout master who is transformed into an indestructible zombie. Cloris Leachman is also good in a small role as Carter’s grumpy elderly neighbour who has a house full of cats that are also turned into zombies.

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse offers a fresh take on an overpopulated and tired genre and proves that zombie films can be fun. It is enjoyable stuff, but it will certainly not be to everyone’s taste. This film will appeal to audiences who liked films like Dead Snow, etc, and could possibly become a late night cult favourite.

★★★

 

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