Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse Director Christopher Landen is perhaps best known for writing four back-to-back films in the now thankfully defunct (apparently) Paranormal Activity franchise (he also directed The Marked Ones). Knowing that, you’d be forgiven for going into this horror-comedy with low expectations, even when considering the film’s title and trailer. It’s not so much that Landen comes with a bad track record (Paranormal Activity 2 and 3 are decent films) but he has already shown a gross lack of originality, and when tackling a genre that has cannibalised itself right down to the tendons, that’s a very, very big warning sign.
At it’s best, “Scouts” is a mish-mash of the worst parts of Superbad and the worst parts of Zombieland with nothing left to do but try and be as ridiculous and over-the-top as it can be with gore and general crass teen humour. At times, this approach works with the gore; not so much with the crass teen humour, which is bogged down by stale jokes (one character asks another, who is handling a bomb efficiently, “what are you? The Taliban.) and clumsy one-liners. Humour is far more effective in the physical action rather than the dialogue.
To be fair, this isn’t a movie that is trying to be original (at least I hope not) but everything is so paper-thin, particularly the characterisation and their relationships to one another that it’s hard to stay engaged. Within a trio of teenage friends on the cusp of junior year one is the excessively horny, inappropriate wild child (Carter, played by Logan Miller), one is the naive geeky kid who is too sensitive and – you guessed it – overweight (Augie, played by Joey Morgan), and the third, the obvious lead, is somewhere in between (Ben, played by Tye Sheridan).
All three are still in the scouts, Ben and Carter mainly because they want to remain loyal to Augie (who recently lost his father) while balancing that out with an attempt to get in with the jock and “hot girl” archetypes. It’s all fairly hum-drum and thankfully lost in jumpy moments of entertainment involving zombie stags and flamboyant homeless men; both of which elicit at least some chuckles while we watch this super cut of every teen comedy ever play out.
“Scouts” picks up when the zombies spill out onto the street, the lab-born virus spreading to both human and animal while the cool kid party that Carter and Ben so desperately wanted to attend continues in a warehouse, with all attendees completely unaware.
Some spirited ideas are thrown around when it comes to zombie-deaths and the more explicit attempts at gross-out gags (elderly zombie penises are funny as it turns out) but the appeal is often lost in the frenetic pace, which jumps straight back into recycled territory every time “Scouts” starts to show some promise.
The film’s few and far between attempts at ingenuity has Landen often sacrificing consistency, particularly where the zombies are concerned; some walk, some jog, some run, some are even sentient enough to sing Britney Spears or perform strip routines; one (Anchorman alum David Koechner) even becomes the main running joke as it refuses to die despite being set on fire run over, and blown up. It takes away from any kind of plot structure and adds to the rapidly declining level of interest most viewers over the age of 18 would feel.
It’s hard not to feel uninspired even when considering that the last thing “Scouts” wants is to be taken seriously. Some ideas are executed relatively well, while most are not and what you are left with is one very dull horror-comedy that is neither thrilling enough or funny enough to even come close to all those superior movies from which it borrows.
Review Score: ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 93 minutes
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is in Australian cinemas from Thursday 5th November