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Over the years, we’ve seen zombies taken out by many different kinds of individuals. It has been a job taken on by reporters, nurses, slackers, U.N. representatives, clerks, soldiers, and many, many more. This fall, however, movie-goers will be able to watch big screen zombie hunters of a much different breed, as Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan are about to become cinema’s first boy scout killers of the undead.
Last summer, I joined a small group of other film journalists on a trip to a closed off hotel in Los Angeles to visit the set of director Christopher Landon’s Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse - getting not only the opportunity to actually watch the movie being filmed, but also talk with the actors and filmmakers responsible for making it. I learned a lot of great stuff while there, so read on for a very special behind-the-scenes preview!
There’s A Big Secret Party That Goes All Kinds Of WrongBefore all of the undead madness begins in Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse, and the characters are forced to try and save their town, the main mission of Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan) is to try and get to a super-secret high school party that happens to be going down inside a Day-Glo painted, drained indoor pool. As you might imagine, this is actually a pretty sweet spot to hold a get-together, but it actually has a whole lot of downsides during a zombie apocalypse.
A zombie invasion of the "pool party" was what I got to watch unfold during my time on the set of the upcoming film, and it was while talking with director Christopher Landon that I realized the impressive and creative danger of the whole situation. After all, it’s not that big of a deal to escape a flesh-eater when in a big open room, but things become very troublesome when monsters corner you in the deep end. Said Landon,
I started thinking about doing something in an in-ground pool and then realized that if zombies come and attack, there’s really no escape; you just get pushed deeper into the pool. So I think that heightens the fear and the claustrophobia.
If/when the zombie apocalypse does break out, you’re probably going to want to keep this in mind.
There Is A Key Advantage To Being A Scout During The Zombie ApocalypseWhen putting together a team to try and survive a zombie apocalypse, key people to consider are soldiers (for knowing how to kill things) and farmers (to solve long-term food problems), but you may not want to count out scouts. After all, their motto is to be prepared, and while being prepared for an undead uprising is tricky, you can trust that they know what they’re doing. As Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse co-star Joey Morgan explained,
They can survive on their own. They live in the woods. We’re good with axes and we’re good with knots, so [I'm] pretty sure that’s a good way to kill a zombie.
In the movie, there are some extra special circumstances that pop up as well, however, and beyond axes and knots, there are even some important skills that the titular scouts pick up that actually wind up being very important. For example, Tye Sheridan’s Ben has a gardening badge, and not only is a trowel-in-the-head a great way to kill a zombie, but it also gives the character access to a very special tool. Said Sheridan, during our on-set interview,
The weapon I use is like a weed whacker, but it’s got knives at the end - like hunting knives. So you turn it on and there are two blades that swing around, and it’s a killing machine!
The Movie Started As PG-13, But That Has Changed In A Big WayWhen Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse was making its way through production, the idea wasn’t really to make the movie for adults, but instead more for kids – planned with a far less hardcore PG-13 rating. This originally meant no blood, no cursing and no nudity… but that wound up going out the door when Christopher Landon came aboard to helm.
While we were on set, the filmmaker didn’t make it sound like he had to bust down doors or break heads in order to make an R-rating happen for the film – but he did add that the more adult-oriented stuff doesn’t just come in the form of bashed zombie brains. Instead, you’ll find that the entire thing really pushes boundaries. Said Landon,
I felt like if we’re already going to have to push it into R territory with gore, let’s push it into R territory with content across the board. So I really set out to create bigger set pieces, much crazier things, and I really wanted to do stuff in this movie that I haven’t seen before, and so, it’s definitely in there.
You have to do something to compete with the insanity that goes on weekly on The Walking Dead, right?
There Is Something Special About These Zombies…Zombies have been a big part of the cinematic landscape for decades and decades, but while many of the incarnations share certain traits, filmmakers also regularly do what they can to put their own spin on the horrific hordes – be it George A. Romero taking their intelligence up a notch for Land of the Dead, or Danny Boyle putting a serious motor on their ass in 28 Days Later. Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse is no different in that category, as director Christopher Landon and the film’s screenwriters also took an extra step in making zombies special: namely the fact that the undead remember elements of who they used to be.
During our interview, Landon not only acknowledged examples, but stressed that it’s one of the elements that makes the film more of a horror comedy than a straight-up horror story. For instance, there is a sequence in the movie where the film’s heroes finally get into a strip club after being constantly denied – but wind up discovering that the girl spinning around the pole has already been infected.
Admittedly, this is an idea that Edgar Wright previously experimented with while making his own great rom-zom-com, Shaun of the Dead, but hopefully < em>Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse will take this idea further and do great things with it.
Zombie Animals Are A ThingThere’s a long list of reasons why human zombies are absolutely terrifying. They’re big, so they can block a path; they have long arms and jointed fingers, allowing for better reaching and grabbing; and, of course, there’s the possibility that you might have had an emotional connection with the person before they became undead, making them difficult to blow away. Dangerous as all that makes them, however, human aren’t the only threats that the heroes need to face down in Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse. Instead, there’s also a good bunch of zombie animals. Said director Christopher Landon,
We have zombie animals, which I think is really fun and cool, and I haven’t really seen much of that. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it before. So we have zombie cats and zombie deer and stuff like that. There’s a lot of weird, kooky shit going on in this movie.
It makes sense that a zombie plague might not only affect the humans of Earth, and would get to the larger animal kingdom as well – so it’s great that the new film is changing the rules a bit to make them into an impressive and killer threat. We’ll see if Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, and the rest of the cast can survive when Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse arrives in theaters October 30th.