We take a look at this new horror comedy…
When a comically bumbling janitor cleans up a familiarly sterile laboratory, he comically bumbles his way into doing the whole 28 days later… bit, dooming humanity to the zombie plague and all that. But luckily for humanity, the American Scouting Society – spell out the acronym for added hilarity – is holding a ceremony for its most pathetic but dedicated member, Augie (Joey Morgan) who is to be awarded his Condor Patch by Scout Leader Rogers, played by a solid but underused David Koechner. Along for the ride are Augie’s fellow-scouts/best friends, Ben (the deservedly rising star Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller). But they’re not really along for the ride, you see, because they’re going into junior year and have been planning for some time to quit the Scouts and reinvent themselves as cool kids. Will Boy Scout preparedness be enough to stop the undead menace? And will the uneasy friendship last the night?
As I believe I’ve already said (Cub review), using the Scouts as the protagonists in your horror movie is such a brilliant idea that it’s hard to believe that no-one’s cottoned on to it until recently. What’s even harder to believe is that, despite its title and premise, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse still hasn’t cottoned on to it. The woods are abandoned as a setting before they’re even established, and the rest of the film takes place in the exact same small town we remember from almost every single other zombie outbreak. And the whole Scouting angle is used for nothing more than the source of strain in Carter and Ben’s friendship with Augie.
In its enthusiasm to come on like Superbad of the Dead, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse wastes its best idea. Reluctant Scouts Ben and Carter take centre stage and, despite a last-minute bit of heartwarming about what being a Scout has meant to Ben, the film avoids making it an important plot element, perhaps sharing Carter’s fear that Scouting is so damned uncool it will alienate any potentially interested chicks/audience members. While Ben and Carter aren’t exactly alpha males – they are, in fact, the customary inbetweeners of bromance films – the characters who are keen Scouts, Augie and Scout Leader Rogers, are portrayed with a mixture of nerdiness and femininity which marks them as unappealing characters, which is funny as the Scouts were intended to preserve the sort of classical masculinity we expect “cooler” characters to aspire to. With their ability to build traps and use knives we’d also expect them to be handy in extreme survival situations like this one, but instead we just get silly bits from nowhere, like the trampoline-over-garden-fence hop that we’ve already seen in Shaun of the Dead, which in any case got it from Zombies Ate My Neighbors.
But the picture isn’t a bad one, per se. The brash, obvious laughs aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t funny; and the story of boys on the brink of maturity drifting apart then back together again is predictable but not ineffective, and certainly not unaffecting. There is a wasted opportunity to have made a more interesting film, still with comedy elements but set in the woods, with real menace and real survival, but the less interesting film still succeeds at being what it’s decided to be – I’m sure that title needs an apostrophe though..
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is open in UK cinemas tomorrow (6th November), are you planning on seeing it? Let us know in the box below!