The cycle of zombies continues to turn. The subgenre has gone from terrifying to joke to terrifying since George Romero first horrified audiences with Night of the Living Dead back in the 60’s. While the last decade and a half has seen a resurgence of the undead infestation of our collective nightmares, their prevalence in mainstream culture has long been a sign of their impending demise. Wells can only run so deep, and horror can only go so far before the terror dries up. Which means that zombies have once again moved back into parody now that the fear is winding down.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse represents the absolute zenith of this trend. Though at times the movie reaches peaks both hilarious and scary, it’s most remarkable for being the potential magic bullet that shoots this trend in its meandering, undead head, ending the current renaissance as we know it. This is probably for the best, however, considering there’s not too much more in the genre worth exploring at this point, either as a serious take or comedic exploit.
Narratively speaking, the plot of the movie is summed up more or less perfectly within the title. A couple of scouts, Ben (Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller), who are disillusioned with the scouting life and thinking of leaving it behind, sneak off from a camping trip meant to celebrate their friend Augie’s (Joey Morgan) ascension to “Condor Scout” in order to attend a wild and raucous party with the supposedly cooler upper classman of their high school. Instead of wild, crazy, and sexed up good times, however, they find a wild, crazy, and sexed up zombie apocalypse, complete with all the usual tropes that you’d expect. Along the way, they team up with local strip club cocktail waitress Denise (Sarah Dumont) and take it upon themselves to save the town from the hordes of undead.
It’s all more or less status quo, with a handful of scenes of madcap sex-comedy shenanigans intermixed with some genuinely fun zombie gore. It’s the kind of movie you laugh at and enjoy, if you’re into that kind of thing, but only for as long as the movie is playing. As soon as the movie ends and you venture back into the world, it leaves your mind and fades quickly from your memory. (Well, except for the scene or two that won’t…you’ll know them if you see it.)
The main problem with Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is that it lacks the kind of charm that makes other zombie genre mashups so memorable and fun. Movies like Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead ultimately succeed due to their unyielding commitment to being, first and foremost, new takes on the zombie phenomenon. Sure, they’re presented in comedic ways, but they play with tropes instead of playing to tropes. A little bit of self-awareness goes a long way in making a conceit such as this palatable, and Scouts Guide is about as self-aware as your average adolescent—it mistakes egotism for genuine awareness, and fails to see why no one really gets it.
Though often laugh out loud hilarious, it’s never any funnier than, say, a drunken night with your best friends, and considerably less memorable. It presumes you’ll find dick jokes, sex jokes, and ogling a set of zombie breasts funny, and hey, if you do, then it’s right up your alley. Ultimately, however, it never quite succeeds in being a madcap sex comedy or a terrifying zombie movie. Rather, it feels remarkably as if someone just threw a bunch of ideas from either genre together. It never reaches the same heights of absurdity of Meatballs or American Pie any more than it reaches the same heights of terror as Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later.
I’ll give it this though, effectswise, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse gets the job done, and it’ll certainly appeal to the zombie fans and gorehounds among us. The undead look awesome, and on occasion some interesting ideas pop up for how to use a zombie. Also to its benefit is the inclusion of zombified animals, which, frankly, is a concept that has been sorely unexplored and unutilized up to this point, in addition to supplying a few moments of actual comedy.
Overall, however, there’s nothing to see here. You probably know better than I do if you’ll enjoy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and if you think you will then there’s a decent chance you might. Just know that I, too, thought there might be something worthwhile or fun to find within this movie, and I left feeling more than a little disappointed. It’s not so much that it’s terrible, because it’s not really. It’s more that it’s just unremarkable, which is exactly what it doesn’t need to be.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is now in theaters.