At risk of sounding unprofessional, I’m sure that at least a good portion of you reading this review, and have read my other reviews, are aware that even as a self-proclaimed cinephile, I never really have particularly high hopes for a film that isn’t part of some franchise I adore ever-so-much. This is because unlike a lot of self-important bloggers and vloggers who love movies as much as I do, I don’t have my head up my ass, nor do I think I’m some kind of street justice critic who thinks his words are enough to persuade or dissuade people from going to see a film. I go to the cinema for the same reason everyone else does: to have a good time. In fact, I’m sure you probably won’t be surprised that at least half my blu-ray shelf is guilty pleasure movies. And it appears Christopher Landon had this kind of mindset when he went about making The Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (catches breath). Hell, just a look at the title- it’s all there. A movie about a bunch of teenage boy scouts trying to survive a zombie outbreak is fucking ridiculous on paper- and it’s just as ridiculous on screen. And if anything, the film’s ridiculousness is why it’s such a fun time. It has everything you’d expect from an American comedy with teenagers as its characters, and the amount of gore and violence needed for a movie about zombies. So, in other words, this isn’t the kind of movie made for people’s top 10 lists. It’s a movie you show to a room full of drunken idiots.
And even with that in mind, the film is still really effective as a standalone movie. Christopher Landon, in interviews leading up to the film’s release, stated that the intention he had with regards to making the film was to blend elements from all the movies he grew up watching- namely, The Goonies, and Porky’s. And so it’s also refreshing to see that the film knows its audience. A lot of movies this year that I’ve seen with a novel concept seemed to have not known who they were aimed at- the most baffling of which being Pixels. I mean, nobody wants to sit though a PG-13-rated zombie movie, right? Additionally, the film does not attempt to water things down- there’s a body count that rivals Peter Jackson’s Braindead, and more splattery goodness than even The Walking Dead would be happy to show, and zombie tits (and even zombie penis)- you get the idea. Yet despite all this, the film also manages to be very emotionally compelling and even has a believable sense of drama and heart to it. It’s as much a zombie movie as it is a film about friendship and admitting mistakes, and with that in mind, this combination makes for a film that is just as much dumb fun as it is also strangely emotionally compelling.
Warning: Here be potential spoilers
The three main characters- Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan) are scouts who have spent years under the supervision of their leader Rogers (David Koechner). Ben and Carter are both getting tired of being scouts well into their teens, but to keep Augie (whose passion is scouting) happy, they agree to have their last campout together, as Augie has been working towards a certain badge. On that day, after hitting a deer, they bump into friends along the side of the road who invite Carter and Ben to an awesome party- problem is, Augie doesn’t know about it, and they don’t want to disappoint him. So they set up a plan- stay at the campout until Augie is deep asleep, and then head to the party. Two snags happen- the first being that Rogers, who is supposed to show up to the scout meets, just plain doesn’t show, but the boys find his lucky pocketknife in the woods, and Augie eventually finds out about their plans to ditch him. But there’s an even bigger problem- a janitor fucking around with a zombie in a BioTine lab (as shown in the opening scene) causes a zombie outbreak to happen, and that very night, the town is evacuated without their knowledge- only for a horde of zombies to be unleashed upon the town. Ben and Carter team up with a sexy, yet tough and badass cocktail waitress Denise (Sarah Dumont), and soon after join Augie in trying to survive the night. But how are they going to make it through if they have two hours to escape the town before it gets bombed?
As I mentioned above, the film is at its best when its influences show. The comedy aspect of the film takes most of its elements from 1980s films such as The Goonies and the sex comedies such as Porky’s and even elements of Animal House make their way in- yet, at the same time, they’re interpreted in a very modern fashion so that the millenials going to see the movie won’t roll their eyes in sheer confusion. The horror aspect is also very well done, as it draws influences from classic George A. Romero films like Day of the Dead and modern zombie films like 28 Days Later, and even other zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead. It may seem as if this would make for a mess of a film, but what’s truly surprising is how cohesive the film comes off as. It helps that the film does actually have a story, and that it puts the story first before all these influences and jokes, but even with that in mind, the film’s mix of old and new is surprisingy very effective. The film also avoids making the mistake of trying to be a “game changer” for its genre, instead preferring to revel in the nostalgic value that it offers. Again, it’s a splatter comedy that aims more for the crowd who will watch it while highly inebriated than those who go to the cinema for the sole purpose of finding a film that will change their lives forever. And the film is completely aware of it, as it emphasizes upon the cliches of typical teenage comedies (horny teenagers and big parties and such) while at the same time throwing some curveballs along our way.
Of course, this film isn’t completely free from sin. I’ve stated numerous times already that the film plays to the cult crowd, however while that does work as an advantage, it also does work to the film’s detriment at times- in example, Ben’s weapon in the final stand-off, as you probably saw in the trailer, is a weed whacker with butterfly knives strung to it, and during the final stand off, there’s a joke made with regards to that that seems to references the infamous “lawnmower” scene in Peter Jackson’s 1992 film Braindead– however, while I found it funny, I can only imagine people who have actually seen the film getting the gag. Admittedly the references to previous cult horror films can get a bit wearisome when you are the only one getting them, and they were far and in between here, but I still did get slightly irritated by that. And another thing- this may be just a personal gripe, but am I the only one who found Carter’s stupidity to be annoyingly over-the-top? I know this is a zombie movie and that it wasn’t aiming to be realistic in the first place, but I still thought they took it a bit too far at times, especially his fixation on tits.
That being said, these gripes thankfully don’t prevent the film from being just a good old guilty pleasurish time at the movies. As I mentioned, the film is funny as fuck and gory as ever, but surprisingly is also very heartfelt. There are certain moments in the film that really tugged at my heartstrings, however the film also didn’t rely on these moments and mostly just cut the bullshit and got straight to the action. It’s the kind of film that makes no attempt to hide what it is- a fun loving gore comedy with exploding heads a-plenty, tons of laughs, and action that will guaranteed leave you entertained, even if it’s not a film that will remain in the back of your head for a long time.
The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a funny, gory and surprisingly heartfelt splatter-comedy that works as both an homage to the past and a modern cult classic. It has enough zombie stuff to keep zombie fans interested, and enough comedy to keep the audience laughing while staying aware of what it is.