**** out of 5
Rated R for zombie violence and gore, sexual material, graphic nudity, and language throughout.
Article first published at The Reel Place.
If there’s any genre on its last breath these days, it’s zombies. Overflowing between theatrical and television, zombies are everywhere. Not all of them suffer from a lack of brains. They can’t all be Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, but Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse makes a great effort and more than lives up to its outrageous title. For once, there is a glutton of spooky movies invading the multiplexes this October — Crimson Peak, Goosebumps, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Hotel Transylvania 2, and now Scouts — and only one of them completely sucks.
The ironic part is that Scouts’ director Christopher (yes, son of Michael) Landon directed the last entry in the finally defunct Paranormal Activity franchise The Marked Ones. Coincidentally, I’ve heard that’s just about the only watchable film in the whole series. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that Scouts Guide winds up being such an enjoyable romp. Armed with a game young cast — and a few seasoned comedic vets — the blood and jokes fly with more than enough of them managing to stick.
Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller), and Augie (Joey Morgan) are the only members in Scout Leader Rogers’s (David Koechner) scout troop. Ben and Carter only stick around because Augie is hellbent on earning every badge known to man. But their friendship is about to hit a speed bump when they head out for one last campout, with Ben and Carter planning to sneak off to a super secret senior party. Little do they — or the poor town of Deer Field, California — that a zombie outbreak is spreading and it’s about to be up to them to stave off the ward of flesheaters. Thankfully, they have a new friend in strip club cocktail waitress Denise (Sarah Dumont), who joins them on their quest to save Carter’s sister/Ben’s unrequited love Kendall (Halston Sage) before the town gets bombed.
If there’s one horror movie that gets as much mileage out of its budget as Scouts Guide, it’s the Evil Dead remake. This is no-holds-barred gore that flows as fast as the jokes from the actor’s mouths. Landon — co-writing with Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans — keeps the gags (sometimes literal) coming at a rapid fire pace. Sheridan, Miller, and Morgan make a fantastic trio, and it was nice to see Dumont get way more to do than stand around and show off her legs. Poor Sage is delegated to damsel in distress, looking like she literally walked over from the Goosebumps set. Koechner and Cloris Leachman also get a lot of mileage out of their roles, with Koechner having a hilarious post-mortem fight with Augie while Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” playing in the background.
There isn’t a lot of publicity surrounding the release of Scouts Guide, which is a shame. The film clearly has an audience with it being a horror movie, but the film is truly hilarious. It even has a bit of heart — and not just of the literal kind — something that comes in mighty handy when our heroes are up to their necks in zombies. There’s even a nice nod to Halloween for eagle-eyed viewers, and things get truly outrageous when the senior party finally falls under attack. For a genre settling into a sad case of rigor mortis, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse has something for everyone. The good news is, the genre isn’t dead yet, it’s gonna have to wait a little bit longer before it reaches its dying breath. For now, audiences should pay more attention and make sure to squeeze this one into their Halloween weekend. You won’t be sorry.