Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

10/31/2015  By  Joseph Wade     No comments

Are we living in the end-times of the zombie craze? I’d like to think so. The steady stream of zombie films over the past decade has now thankfully slowed to a trickle of one or two per year. The Walking Dead is in its sixth season now, and while there are still truckloads of comics to adapt, the show has pretty much run out of things to do except finding a way to end itself. So where does that leave a film like Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse? Neither as hopelessly bleak as The Walking Dead, nor as ambitiously genial as Warm Bodies, Scout’s Guide takes what should have been a slam dunk premise and finds every conceivable way to screw it up.

High school sophomores Ben (Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller) have been plotting to quit their local scout troop for a while now. The only reason they haven’t yet is so as not to hurt the feelings of the only other member, Augie (Joey Morgan). While embarking on a camping trip with Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner), Ben and Carter ditch Augie in the middle of the night to hit up a party at the town rec center. Upon returning to town, they find it overrun by zombies. With 20-something shotgun-toting dream-girl Denise (Sarah Dumont) in tow, Ben and Carter must retrieve Augie and combine their scouting know-how to save the town before the military firebombs it into oblivion.

Sarah Dumont in Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Even after the zombie apocalypse, the backlighting is amazing.

Everything about Scout’s Guide is aggressively pitched to the high school crowd. There’s a wall-to-wall EDM soundtrack, characters taking selfies all over the place, and more gags involving zombie boobs and dicks than I ever would have expected to see in one lifetime, let alone one movie. The film overindulges in all of this stuff, so much so that by the end it’s really nothing shocking to see a zombie dick detach and fly into the mouth of another zombie. You can see the bits and pieces this film cribs from a dozen other zombie films, and director Christopher Landon (writer of four Paranormal Activity films) exaggerates them well past the point of “all in good fun” and into “what are you even trying to prove?” territory.

One of the first things Ben and Carter do when they get back to town is sneak into the local strip club (called “Lawrence of Alabia”). There, Ben sits and watches a stripper do some pole-dancing, right up until the moment she’s revealed to be a zombie and her bite wound bleeds all over him. Setting aside the fact that a zombie has the motor skills to pull off those fancy pole maneuvers, it’s a scene that feels more than a little exploitative. It’s not even the worst case the film has to offer. At one point a restrained zombie’s blouse pops open, and one of our heroes can’t help but give her boobs a quick honk. People already use zombie outbreak scenarios as a way of planning their ultimate fantasy murder spree; do we really need to add sexual harassment to that itinerary?

Joey Morgan, Tye Sheridan and Logan Miller in Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

A more clever film would’ve actually found plot-relevant uses for all those badges.

Zombie sexual politics aside, Scout’s Guide is simply too haphazard to be effective as either a comedy or a horror film. The process of zombies taking over and forcing the police to evacuate the town happens entirely offscreen during the first act. Once the ticking clock of the military’s impending air strike is introduced, the film suddenly shifts gears and wastes nearly its entire middle act on scenes that accomplish nothing. That ticking clock doesn’t even really matter all that much, because it’s only ever mentioned again once. Couple that with the fact that (spoiler alert) none of our main characters suffer a fate worse than a stern talking-to, and this film has zero tangible stakes to keep us invested.

This film wants so badly to be a goofball zombie film in the vein of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive or even the more recent Zombieland. The reason those films succeed, though, is because they at least have a unifying premise driving them forward. Too much of Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is concerned with lame fart jokes, lamer zombie sex jokes, seemingly random musical cues and chances for us to ogle Denise. Does any of that sound appealing to you? If you said yes, congratulations on being fourteen. Good luck asking your mom to buy you tickets.

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Joseph Wade is secretly three bulldogs in a trenchcoat. Their favorite movie is Turner & Hooch.

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