2015 has been an exceptional year for genre-infused comedies and the latest, Christopher Landon’s wickedly entertaining Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, is yet another great addition to this year’s class. A tremendously intelligent and heartfelt example of how to properly balance bawdy humor and horror, Scouts Guide is honestly the most fun I’ve had with a studio film in quite some time and proves there are still ways to make zombies interesting and enjoyable, even to hardcore fans (like myself) who may feel like we’ve seen everything we possibly can with these living dead creatures.
Scouts Guide follows Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan)—a group of high schoolers who still participate in their local Scouts program on the eve of a big campout with their adult supervisor, Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner). Their plan to spend the night in the woods together is soon thwarted, though, as the trio realizes they're right in the middle of a full-blown zombie apocalypse and must band together, utilizing their Scout-related knowledge, in order to put an end to the living dead running rampant on the streets before it’s too late for their entire town.
Many folks will call Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse “Superbad meets Shaun of the Dead”, and while I think that’s a pretty accurate description, it's also a bit of a disservice to Landon, his co-writers, and the incredibly talented ensemble he entrusted with his latest film; the horror comedy does feel "familiar" but is really something wholly new altogether—and that is something the zombie subgenre so desperately needs right now. It also helps that the script is brimming with jokes, outrageous gags and a very un-PC attitude, all things I found rather refreshing, especially coming out of a studio film (kudos, Paramount!).
Growing up on films like Meatballs, Sixteen Candles or even Animal House, I love when a comedy doesn’t feel "safe" but can still appeal to broad audiences (meaning, young and old) and deliver great characters that feel fully realized. Scouts Guide has that in spades. Koechner is his usual offbeat and hysterical self (the revelations to his character’s background are downright hilarious), but it’s the trio of boys—Sheridan, Miller and Morgan—that end up stealing the show in Scouts Guide, alongside Sarah Dumont’s character Denise, who consistently proves she’s much more than just eye candy in cutoff jean shorts.
For anyone easily offended, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is not the movie for you; there are numerous off-color gags involving genitals, sexual acts, and other things that would leave Dr. Ruth blushing (nothing like a timely reference, but you get my meaning), so if you’re someone who takes offense to seeing teenage boys fetishize boobs and hot chicks, then perhaps you should get your zombie fix elsewhere.
Speaking of zombies, something else I really appreciated about Scouts Guide was how Landon and his co-writers approached their cinematic flesh-eaters a bit differently than we’ve seen in other films as of late. The script explores the idea of "learned behavior", which I totally dug, especially since Romero attempted to do the same with Survival of the Dead but wasn’t wholly successful with his approach. There are also a ton of great nods to horror films of the past mixed in as well—something else I really appreciated.
As a whole, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse surprised me again and again, resulting in an experience that left me laughing and cringing from start to finish. I don’t know what it says about me that my sensibilities fell perfectly in line with those of a teenaged boy, but honestly, it was just nice to have some fun with zombies again and frankly, Landon completely won me over with his "zombie cat" bit. I expect a lot of folks will be turned off by the very R-rated humor throughout the film, but if you can look beyond that and realize there’s a very tenderhearted coming-of-age story in this, you may also have a blast with these scouts this Halloween.
Movie Score: 4/5