Watching a great horror comedy is truly one of the best ways to revel in and personally experience the spirit of Halloween. After all, October 31st is the one time of the year when we embrace the fun of dressing up in costumes and eating candy in combination with celebrating the legacy of all varieties of ghosts, goblins and ghouls. This fact should work in the favor of director Christopher Landon’s new film Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse, which has been timed for release with the holiday, but trust us when we say that you’re much better off busting out your Blu-ray copy of Shaun of the Dead or Army of Darkness.
Based on a screenplay by Landon, Emi Mochizuki, Carrie Lee Wilson and Lona Williams, the movie centers on Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller), and Augie (Joey Morgan) - a trio of high school students and best friends who have spent years together as boy scouts, but find their relationship in troubled waters. While Augie’s love of collecting badges and camping has thrived, both Ben and Carter are ready to move on with their lives, and want to announce their intentions to do so the night of a big campout being held in their buddy’s honor. They plan on not only telling him that they no longer want to be scouts, but also ditch him and their scout leader (David Koechner) in favor of a super-secret party being attended by all of the town’s cool kids – including Carter’s sister and Ben’s big crush (Halston Sage). Organized as this sounds, however, it doesn’t quite work out, as the entire town gets hit with a zombie plague and sends everything into chaos.
Teaming up with a beautiful cocktail waitress from the local strip club (Sarah Dumont), the three boys must not only try to survive the horror movie that has come to life, but also try and find the location of the aforementioned super-secret party so that they can be sure that Carter’s sister/Ben’s crush is safe. Accomplishing this task requires multiple stops around the neighborhood into zombie-infested zones, and ultimately tests the bonds of friendship between the main characters.
With a title like Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse, you’d think that the movie might hinge on the hook of having young characters with survival know-how find creative ways to escape and defeat hordes of the walking dead – but you’d be wrong. Rather than taking advantage of a potentially unique approach, the film translates boy scouts as “losers” instead of “skilled outdoorsmen,” and opts to just play out a prototypical plot that has the protagonists running from location to location, hitting basic story beats while avoiding being bitten. Essentially, it’s a run-of-the-mill zombie movie that the filmmakers hope is buoyed by ridiculously sophomoric humor - but even this doesn’t really work, as with the exception of a few standout scenes (including the big third act set piece and one memorable sequence involving a trampoline), all of it is groan-worthy material that’s regularly hard to sit through.
Beyond the script’s many mechanical issues, the much larger (and much more disturbing) problem with Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse is the honestly terrible way that it utilizes its female character. It’s much more than your standard failure of the Bechdel Test, as every woman in the movie is either hyper-sexualized, needlessly catty, or put in a position just to be a helpless damsel in distress (this is actually a perfect rundown of the main three female roles played by Sarah Dumont, Niki Koss, and Halston Sage, respectively). It’s one thing to have audiences see the world through the adolescent and perverted minds of the film’s young protagonists – which goes to explain why a strip club is treated as some sort of mecca – but the feature grabs that idea and takes it to a cringe-worthy level, which completely takes you out of the story and makes you think about just how much things still really need to improve for women in Hollywood.
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse isn’t entirely without interesting moments – as clever scenes are accomplished with the inclusion of undead animals, and there’s even a nice running gag with a particular zombie who just won’t die – but that’s really as far as compliments can be taken. The film is mostly an assemblage of poor taste, bad jokes, aimless storytelling and unfulfilled potential. You can find a much better way to spend the Halloween holiday.