While it’s no surprise that a zombie comedy loaded with beat-pounding electronica isn’t exactly canon Romero, the reckless abandon that Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse shows towards genre mythos is asinine, yet admirable(ish). Writers Emi Mochizuki, Carrie Evans, Christopher Landon, and Lona Williams couldn’t care less about undead continuity, as they flesh out a strobe-lit, gooey debauchery in the vein of a much more immature Zombieland. Think American Pie meets Dance Of The Dead, where director Christopher Landon (pulling double duty) goes style over substance into levels of zombie-stripping, head-exploding madness. True horror junkies are going to be crying foul after every unexplained walker detail, but younger fans enamored by gratuitous death sequences will probably be laughing too hard to care as Dillon Francis’ head transforms into a bloody mist.
Side note: If you don’t know what a Dillon Francis is, or if you believe “IDGAFOS” (I Don’t Give A Fuck Or Shit) is just a spastic keyboard blunder, then this isn’t the zombie comedy for you.
Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan star as resourceful young scouts who are about to celebrate Augie’s (Morgan) acceptance of the distinguished Condor Badge. Ben (Sheridan) and Carter (Miller) are happy for their best bud, but secretly plan to put their scouting days behind them in favor of fast times and loose women. They’d rather attend a super-secret party the local seniors are throwing, which Augie catches them sneaking off to. Disappointed, Augie lets Ben and Carter go, but a rift in their friendship becomes a second-rate problem when they discover that Deer Field had been ravaged by a zombie outbreak. Teaming up with a stripper named Denise (Sarah Dumont), it’s time for this crew to prove each merit badge they earned, and escape before the military bombs away their problems.
As a 26-year-old who found himself explaining the appeal of EDM to fellow critics, Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse exists as neither a cult classic nor monumental bomb. The young whipper-snapper in me could still stomach chaotic action sequences that were a blur of CG zombie guts and piercing lasers, while my hardened horror core still questioned why zombies were jumping on trampolines and not infecting victims through fluid transfers. It’s the kind of film that lazily throws “Haddonfield” on a street sign as an Easter egg, yet address something horror directors typically shy away from – zombie animals. There are some great genre manipulations here, and fun scenes of zombie-blasting action, but it’s all undercut by a host of sexual not-so-innuendos, and a sometimes grating immaturity.
Here’s the main problem – Landon’s zombies have no definition. At first glance, the shambling horde reflects typical zombie tropes and appearances. That’s before one renegade beast sporting a spiky growth on his back goes on all fours and starts bounding at high speeds, followed by full running from the whole group. Yet, when one zombie encounters the group alone, he walks slowly, but then shows human characteristics when he joins a group singalong of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby (One More Time).”
So, the zombies have memories of their past lives, to suggest it’s only an infection? But this theory doesn’t stand because Carter ingests zombie blood on numerous occasions when his face is covered in the gunk, proving that only a bite transforms you. Hell, a zombie goes through her whole stripping routine before going all rabid, because, well, why not? For a movie that has “zombie” in the title, there’s one heck of an abandon of zombie rules and regs without any explanation.
Then again, does attention to mythological detail account for much here? Scouts Guide is first and foremost a buddy comedy, fueled by unlikely badassery and teenage drama. Yes, this amounts to some throwaway romantics and generic love advice, but when the troop puts their ass-kicking boots on, Landon earns his stripes as a zombie exterminator. There’s a fun weapon-building montage in a hardware store (featuring a Bocce-ball-blasting PVC cannon), which leads to a gory mess of exploding heads, gruesome bites, and weed-wacking brutality reminiscent of Dead Alive‘s lawnmower blender. Cloris Leachman gums Carter’s exposed bottom, a zombie dabbles in cunnilingus, and David Koechner fights an undead deer – like I said, there’s glimpses of hilarious terror here, it’s just not consistently paced.
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse is good enough for the right crowds, but in gearing itself for less horror-focused minds, there’s a shift in detailing that invests more time into thinking up different ways to describe the act of intercourse. Who cares about the process of infection as long as we’ve got a zombie wiener in the mix – right, kids? It’s the kind of film that hopes you’re distracted by Dillon Francis’ face long enough to ignore the glistening slop of animated blood he turns into, and while it’ll work on some viewers, the cameo will ultimately find itself lost on folks from older generations – much like the film itself. If zombie boobs, zombie dicks, and zombie sex sound are more your taste, you’re in for quite a treat, but more refined audiences won’t be held over by Sarah Dumont’s she-woman action hero. It’s a movie that’s halfway there, but could have been something special given a little more campfire wisdom.
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse ain't your daddy's zombie movie - quite literally. It's a genre film built for younger audiences who will embrace every moment of the dub-stepping chaos, but might not be suited for more refined tastes.