Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse Film Review: Dead On Arrival

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Tweetable Takeaway:  Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse buries fun and frights under a lackluster movie.


Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse is a movie you’ve seen before. You’ve seen it better. Superbad tackles raunchy teen comedy coupled with the fear and anxiety of growing apart. Zombieland gave us all the gory gut-busting laughs at the expense of the undead. Shaun of the Dead excelled with genuine scares, abundant laughs, and an engaging story. Scouts so blatantly wants to be a cross between these better outings, attempting at every turn to borrow and mesh elements from the films together. This only occasionally works, but throughout Scouts you can feel yourself wanting to just head out and watch those films instead.

Scouts begins with an ill-conceived opening that attempts to instate the origin of the zombie virus. This scene doesn’t effectively set the tone for the film and, afterward, feels generally too lengthy and unnecessary. Blake Anderson is always a treat, but here he’s given very little to do. But, this scene tells us a great deal of what the movie we’re watching is going to be about. It’s about the zombies, not the scouts.

SCOUTS VS. ZOMBIES

We meet the titular scouts soon after a failed meeting to recruit new members. Teenage scouts Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller), and Augie (Joey Morgan) head to a campout in order to celebrate Augie receiving his latest patch. However, Ben and Carter are merely continuing their scouting to appease their stunted friend, both planning to quit and sneak away to a Senior party. A party which, is so ludicrously over-the-top and ridiculous that it’s completely out of the realm of high school possibilities. Augie’s on to them and Ben and Carter leave the campsite with their tails between their legs. Before going to the party, the pair take an ill-fated trip to a strip club where they encounter their first zombies. Cocktail waitress Denise (Sarah Dumont) steps in to save them. Cue the undead antics!

What proceeds is schlocky fun, with an occasional laugh or scare that sticks, but they’re few and far between. Unfortunately, the film has a rather hard time balancing the drama between Ben, Carter, and Augie, as it generally feels forced at every turn. This is a waste of the talents of Sheridan, who notably rises above the so-so material he’s working with. Sheridan is the only member out of the bunch with a real goal and a fully realized character. He’s not the sex-crazed friend or the loser, he’s just a kid trying to figure things out. Sheridan does most of the heavy lifting and the film’s better for it.

As far as teen comedies go, Scouts doesn’t make a blip on the radar. As soon as the zombie action begins, that portion of the film nearly goes out the window. So, how could a movie primarily about zombies be so…boring? It’s because all of the zombie action is something we’ve seen a hundred times before, and done much better. The film brings hardly anything new to the genre and feels on par with straight to VOD zombie horror and buried Netflix fare. There’s no exciting kills, no surprising zombies, and no really memorable sequences.

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One weird and ultimately forgotten aspect are the zombie animals. Scouts is set apart from other zombie films in that it includes returned cats and a deer. However, these scenes, particularly the one with the cats, are so short and lackluster that we never get to fully enjoy them. Zombie cats! That should be a memorable scene in and of itself, but it’s paltry and forgettable.

Scouts is all over the map with their zombies. Some are your slow and typical. Some are fast and a bit more unhinged. Some strip and sing Britney Spears? Several of the zombies in the film show signs of cognitive function and are able to speak, comically groan, or even do a striptease. These characters seem like a plant to be later addressed, but it’s simply forgotten. The mentality of the film is just to go for the joke, regardless of how illogical it is. Sure, let’s have a zombie sing Britney Spears, why not? It’s funny, but comes so far out of left field that you can’t help but feel cheated as to the lack of explanation.

For a film called Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse, you’d expect the scouts to use their expansive survival knowledge to defeat the hordes of the undead. You’d be wrong, as the countless patches mean nothing, as the film’s leads rarely employ any of their skills. This is the film’s most disappointing aspect. You eagerly anticipate a variety of Home Alone-type traps and Goonies-like makeshift inventions used to kill zombies. Instead it’s your typical and vastly unoriginal weapons. Sheridan whittles a spear tip. That’s it, unfortunately.

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Scouts feels disjointed and the moments that shine are hidden underneath awkward pacing. Zombies appear and disappear at the convenience of the characters. Our heroes are never in any real danger, and generally neither is anyone else. Scouts presents a zombie apocalypse with the lowest stakes ever. Will the world end? Are everyone’s families okay? None of that matters as long as someone gets to kiss a girl.

Scouts feels like an unfinished film, with great ideas buried underneath unconfident direction. This film had a long and rough birth since it debuted on the Black List and what we’re left with is a bastardized version of a fun movie underneath, that lumps along and feels much longer than it truly is. Scouts is a so-so, juvenile movie that wastes its potential and never lives up to its name. The enjoyable elements and the laughs are too spread out to ever garner a repeated viewing and the film feels wholly forgettable in a vastly over-saturated genre. What does Scouts do to excel teen romps or zombie films? Really, not much.

I give it 2 decaying, zombie cats out of 5.

Score:  2 out of 5

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Bryan is a filmmaker who is now living in Hollywood. On any given Saturday you can find him dressing like an 80’s dad and singing “Just a friend” until someone asks him to stop.
Twitter: @BryanLiberty

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