Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) | Directed by Christopher Landon
Written by Carrie Lee Wilson, Emi Mochizuki, Christopher Landon, Lona Williams | Starring Patrick Stewart, Tom Rhys Harries, Jessamine-Bliss Bell
On the night of a Condor Badge ceremony, three unlikely teenage scouts find themselves battling zombies in an attempt to save their town, prevent a pan-American outbreak and impress as many girls along the way as possible. This movie had me from the premise, but it could have easily been a total disaster. Too many naff ‘vs. zombies’ movies exist these days and, in my opinion, the zombie genre had begun to stagnate. There haven’t been many stand out zombie movies over the last ten years, the exceptions being those with a fresh perspective, such as Maggie or Warm Bodies. So, I was well prepared for Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse to leave me underwhelmed. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a genuinely funny zombie flick with excellent production values and a perfect cast.
When childhood best friends Carter, Ben and Augie set out to a camp out in celebration of Augie receiving his Condor badge, the three friends fall out over the importance of being a scout versus popularity and girls. Torn between the reckless, girl-hungry Carter and reliable, true scout Augie, it is down to Ben to hold the group together – which becomes no mean feat when they return to town to find a zombie infection has spread in the time it took them to pitch their tents. As they discover that the military is planning to solve the problem by bombing the town, Ben must lead the charge to save the remaining citizens who have yet to be evacuated – namely Carter’s older sister and her friends, who are obliviously living it up at a secret party. Enlisting the help of a cocktail waitress from the local strip bar and with nothing but their scouting skills and a handful of random tools and camping essentials to defend themselves, this band of misfits have their work cut out.
The genius of this movie lies in the casting. Logan Grant plays the impetuous and horny Carter with incredible ease and absolutely steals the show. X-Men: Apocalypse star Tye Sheridan as Ben manages the task of being both cautious and reckless as he steers the band of friends through outrageously gory situations and many bad decisions. And Augie, played by Joey Morgan is a joy to watch, and you can’t help but feel for him throughout the whole film, despite his desperately misguided dedication to being a true scout forever. Throw in Anchorman’s David Koechner as scout leader and Sarah Dumont playing cocktail waitress Denise and you have a recipe for action, adventure and laughs all the way. All the characters have overblown traits, but the grassroots choice of protagonists shines through to make this a truly enjoyable movie. You wouldn’t be surprised to see these three boys hanging out like this (sans zombies) any day of the week. We’ve all met these characters in our lives and many of us can name a Carter, Ben or Augie in our own friendship group. You need great acting and onscreen chemistry to make these familiar character traits come to life, and these three young actors definitely have the chops for it.
The scout angle is well executed and never overused. The boys scouting skills play an integral part in their survival and the ingenious use of knots, whittling, foraging and fire lighting is both hilarious and innovative. Who’d have thought condoms and a broom could be used to break yourself out of a police cell! The inevitable closing battle scene incorporates some impressive use of tools and hardware and even features a preparation montage set to inspirational music, for those of you that like that sort of thing.
Speaking of music, the soundtrack for Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse helps to put this movie in its own league. Horror movies tend to drift between atmospheric scores and dark heavy metal a lot of the time. Though this is absolutely fine by me, it was incredibly refreshing to experience a horror movie driven by pop, hip hop and R&B. Whether it is incidental shots or critical scenes, the music gives this movie a totally different feel than its peers; one that I did not expect but was very pleased to see. Even Britney Spears gets used as a mechanism for communicating with the zombies. And let’s not forget the hilarious opening sequence, which has forever changed how I feel about Iggy Azalea’s ‘Black Widow’.
This movie never tries too hard to be cutting edge. The creative team have taken a linear plot and applied a cracking USP and not deviated far from that brief throughout. As a result, we have a movie that is exciting and funny, but predictable enough to mean the viewer doesn’t have to think too hard and can just enjoy a bloodthirsty, zombie filled coming-of-age comedy. A movie like Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse really shouldn’t be anything but a lot of fun, and that’s exactly what you get here. There are loads of awful horror/comedy movies out there, so do yourself a favour, save yourself hours of mediocre chuckles and just pick this next one.