By Thomas Simpson
Whether it’s on TV or at the cinema we can’t seem to avoid zombies. The undead are a bankable commodity however there’s only so many different ways that the story of the zombie apocalypse can be told before we all fall into a mass slumber. Director Christopher B. Landon looks to provide a different slant on our inevitable destiny. Sure a virus is concocted in a lab only for it to escape but this time our saviors have a more particular set of skills. The last line of defense is a scout group in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.
Despite the novelty of the title, there’s isn’t much in the plot that you won’t have seen before. Ben (Tye Sheridan) is your everyday high school sophomore loser. He’s cute, harmless and lacks severely in the cool kid department. His two friends are, naturally, the horny funny one Carter (Logan Miller) and the even more pathetic Augie (Joey Morgan). Despite being the social outcasts and the butt of all jokes, the trio become the only hope for the seniors that mock them when the zombie plague infects the town. Well, the three of them and hot cocktail waitress Denise (Sarah Dumont).
Whereas the title promises a wacky over the top comedy horror, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is mostly a rehash of early 2000s raunchy comedies. Everything looks familiar yet watered down. For the first act you wouldn’t care if zombies devoured the screenwriters as the hackneyed clichés of the genre are trotted out one after another.
To be fair to the main cast, they do their best with the material available and although it takes around half the film to develop any attachment to them, they’re fairly likable and amusing enough.
As a comedy it doesn’t provide enough laughs however the film’s strengths lie in its horror set-pieces. The pace picks up when the zombies attack providing the opportunity for some inventive and comical deaths. Towards the third act the film pays homage to Evil Dead 2 as the scouts go into A-Team mode, using their DIY skills to tool up. This is where the film works best but it’s dragged down too often by the bland high school comedy tropes.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse chooses to follow a timeworn rule book for the majority of its run time which is unfortunate as it shines when it loosens the restraints and dives head first into the absurd. The laughs are few and far between with perhaps the best joke delivered just before the credits roll. There is fun to be had during the Scouts vs. Zombies scenes but it’s not enough to save the film and while it aims low, it misses the mark by playing it safe.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy 41.