It’s easy to imagine the various ways Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse might have been pitched — “It’s like Superbad, but with zombies,” “It’s like The Girl Next Door, but with zombies,” and so on. In truth, it’s like a lot of things … but with zombies, which, in itself, makes it like a lot of things. It is aimed at people who think that zombies make everything better. And, if that’s not enough, we also get more than our fair share of dick-and-diarrhea jokes. In short, this is strictly for intellectuals — give or take. The movie marks the directorial debut of Christopher Landon, who was involved in writing three of the Paranormal Activity movies and the series’ offshoot, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014). The real shock here lies in realizing that the Paranormal Activity movies were actually written. While it’s tempting to say that this is exactly the film you’d expect from the scribe of those movies, that would be unfair, since it’s, at least, better than those. Do not mistake this statement for a recommendation.
It would be fairly reasonable to say that the title is the movie. You have scouts versus zombies, and presumably that’s what anyone actually paying money to see this is hoping to see. In this regard, they will be getting what they bargained for. (What follows in this review may be considered to be in the realm of spoilers by some.) To judge by the response of the small — and obviously committed — audience who felt it worthwhile to turn out at The Carolina at 10 p.m. Thursday night, the film will have its adherents. Indeed, the scene where our teen scout hero (a moderately amusing Tye Sheridan) saves himself from falling out of a window by holding on to a zombie’s incredibly elastic willy provoked not only laughter, but applause. (I remind myself that the theater serves alcohol, but remain unconvinced that this is not destined to become an iconic moment in modern horror.)
There is a sort of a plot, but it hardly matters since its sole purpose is to pit our three scouts (Sheridan plus Logan Miller and Joey Morgan) — and a resourceful “cocktail waitress” (Sarah Dumont) from a “gentlemen’s club” called Lawrence of Alabia (yes, well …) — against a town full of the noshing dead. (For those who worry about such things, these scouts are clearly some generic splinter-scouting organization that may only consist of these three kids and one Dolly Parton-obsessed scoutmaster, played by the invariably annoying David Koechner.) Along the way, we’re treated to an array of zombies — including an almost lovably hokey hand-puppet zombie cat — and the usual sort of zombie mayhem.
The movie’s idea of a comedic wrinkle is to have zombified Cloris Leachman — minus her false teeth — try to nibble on Logan Miller’s bare backside. As a bonus, we also have Miller unable to resist groping a busty zombie policewoman. We also get a tacky rip-off of Re-Animator‘s (1985) justly infamous cunnilingus scene. If none of that immediately appeals to you, take heart — the movie also includes life lessons on friendship for the easily influenced and the gullible young. The latter are theoretically too young to attend such movies, so the purpose of this family-movie staple is puzzling, to say the least.
It may seem that I have nothing good to say about Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, but that’s not entirely true. I will happily admit that it doesn’t lack for drive. Whatever else may be said of it, it keeps barreling ahead with a momentum that staves off actual boredom. That’s an accomplishment of some sort, though one that might be likened to a train without brakes careening down a mountain. It was almost exactly what I expected, and I didn’t mind sitting through it, and I never need to see it again. That its approximately two-day Halloween shelf-life will be over by the time you read this makes reviewing it something of a fool’s errand goes with the territory. Rated R for zombie violence and gore, sexual material, graphic nudity and language throughout.