Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE | 93 min | R
Directed by: Christopher Landon
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, Halston Sage, David Koechner, Cloris Leachman, Patrick Schwarzenegger
Hollywood loves to churn out zombie movies like cinematic sausage. Audiences love to slop them with relish and eat them up. However, for every good zombie film, there are the bad. Sadly, director Christopher Landon’s SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE falls into that latter category. Wanting badly to be as smart, charming and genuinely funny as SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND, the raunch-zom-com falls far short of a film with any modicum of brains.
Best friends Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan) have all been in scouts since they were 6 years old. But lately Ben and Carter’s enthusiasm has been waning since they’re approaching their junior year in high school and the scout uniform is a real lady-boner killer. They want to leave the troop – only that would mean leaving Augie behind and all alone. That’s when a zombie apocalypse takes over their town and changes everything. Now it’s up to them and Denise (Sarah Dumont), a Laurence of A labia (yes, really! A SEX AND THE CITY 2 reference) strip club waitress, to use their skills to rescue Kendall (Halston Sage), Carter’s sister and the object of Ben’s crush, before the military bombs the town.
Problematic doesn’t begin to describe this film. It’s a mess – and not even a hot one. It’s flat-out revolting and an insult to audience intelligence. What’s most disappointing is that SCOUTS had the potential to be a kick-ass riot – if only smarter minds prevailed during the creation process. Brandon Trost’s cinematography makes this otherwise excruciating experience a little better, adding a sleek polish to a terrible script. The third act montage with the trio gearing up for the epic zombie-smack-down is energetic, but lacks enough “oomph” to take it to the next level. There are a few laughs – two to be exact (“It smells like Pixie Stix and hope in here!” and Augie’s line about “the stench of betrayal”). The guys’ all-too-brief lack of awareness about the zombiepocalypse is funny – but not too dissimilar from SHAUN OF THE DEAD. And the ever-alluring nerds-versus-popular-kids aspect is aching to be fully played out.
The main issue is, due to an alarming deficiency of ingenuity, the ingredients for a crowd-pleaser are given less weight, favoring tired tropes, thinly drawn characters we don’t care about, sexist depictions of women, lazy jump scares, and many logic flaws. Overweight, klutzy Augie eats and then has digestive issues because of course he does. Make the fat kid do the fart/ poop joke. That’s comedy gold. It’s not. When Landon, Emi Mochizuki, Carrie Evans and Lona Williams’ script attempts to interject any kind of sentimentality about the boys’ friendship, it hits sour notes and generally feels forced. Ben and Carter are just as bad to Augie as school bully Jeff (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is to them. Why should we care? We’re told they are outsiders, yet we never feel their marginalization. Look, it can’t even be bothered with following basic rules: Carter gets bit by a zombie and doesn’t turn. Um. Was the zombie apocalypse actually thwarted? At that point, you won’t care for an answer.
Women are either hot chicks or hags – there’s no in between. Even the policewoman isn’t spared from degradation. Her name is “Officer Hottie” and her zombiefied boobs are honked later. That’s wonderful. Again, it’s not. Though it seems clear the filmmakers intended Denise to be the guys’ “Lisa” from WEIRD SCIENCE, she never quite gets there, because why should she have any kind of character arc and not the other guys?! Just because she saves the boys’ lives with a gun, flagpole and hidden escape hatch, doesn’t make this feminism. It’s not. She’s objectified the entire time. Oh honey.
Is this going to hit with the target teen demo? I’d wager it won’t, as there are plenty of other great zombie films savvy teens and tweens could watch instead of this disposable garbage. Listen, I liked what this film wanted to be – but not what it actually is.
SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE is now playing.