Wednesday, 4 November 2015


Confession time — long before I was a horror blogger, read by literally thousands of discerning genre fans around the globe each and every week, I was a Cub Scout. That's right: dib dib dib, badges and woggles, the full shebang.
It wasn't to last forever, but for a few years I was a part of camping trips, good deeds for the day and even more badges.
Which probably means I was a little more susceptible to the charms of Christopher Landon's Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse than most. 
A zomcom that pits scouts vs the ravenous undead — surely this was worthy of a badge of merit? Or would it be best dead and buried?
Read on...


Dir: Christopher Landon
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Lucas Gage, Niki Koss, Cloris Leachman

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk. 

Ben (Sheridan) and Carter (Miller) are two teenagers who are part of a tiny and unpopular scout troop, led by Scout Leader Rogers (Anchorman's Koechner). Long term members, they have lost interest in the scouts, instead finding themselves more into the opposite sex than wreath knots and sheepshanks.
Ben has a serious unrequited crush on Carter's older sister Kendall (Sage) while his buddy has plenty of lust towards her vacuous best pal Chloe (Koss).
But — despite their misgivings — the two boys have felt unable to quit the troop due to their friendship with earnest fellow scout Augie (Morgan) who has thrown himself into scouting since the death of his father a couple of years ago.
However, on the day that the three boys are set to go camping to celebrate Augie earning his coveted Condor patch, the other two receive an invite to the secret seniors party that Kendall and her friends will be attending that evening.
Jubilant, Ben and Carter stop on the way to the camp to obtain alcohol and, after Ben helps stunning strip club cocktail waitress Denise (Dumont), she fetches beer for them.
That evening things don't go exactly to plan when first Scout Leader Rogers doesn't show (having fallen victim to a shuffling undead attacker, an infected doctor from a nearby research laboratory), then Augie catches the pair attempting to ditch him. Heartbroken, he tells them to leave.
Ben and Carter head into town, but on the way they notice that the intimidating bouncer has abandoned his post outside the strip club and Carter demands that they sneak in. However, soon their youthful exuberance turns to terror when they come face to face with a ravenous zombie stripper and the undead bouncer.
Meanwhile, Augie heads to Scout Leader Rogers' Dolly Parton themed home and comes face to ghoulish face with his former idol.
As a deadly virus rips through the town, all three boys find their survival skills pushed to the limit. Can the town be saved? Will Ben and Carter reach the party? And will the boys mend their friendship before it's too late? 

BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): In case you couldn't tell, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is the latest entry in the growing zomcom sub-genre. Now, unlike some horror comedies that forget to actually be funny, Scouts Guide… is absolutely hilarious.
From the opening scene in which a bungling cleaner mimes and dirty dances along to Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora's Black Widow to some sidesplitting dialogue and some truly horrible grossout humour, this is a film that brings the laughs by the bucketload. The aforementioned Azalea/Ora collaboration isn't the only great musical choice in the film — an impromptu rendition of Britney Spears' Hit Me Baby One More Time and a particularly hard-hitting confrontation with a relentless zombie assailant playing out to the strains of Dolly Parton's country classic 9 to 5 both had me in stitches.
Having a veteran funnyman in the form of Koechner certainly doesn't harm the film's comedy-cred, but it's not just the Anchorman star who delivers. The three young leads are all excellent, each capturing the essence of the character (Sheridan's Ben is the nice, decent one, Miller's Carter is the smart-mouthed horn dog, while Morgan's Augie is the overly earnest, nerdy one). Sheridan is a good-looking young man and should have a long and successful career, while Miller shows excellent comic timing, reminding me a lot of long-term Kevin Smith collaborator Jason Lee. Morgan also brings some some excellent comedy delivery and could well prove a break out star in comedy flicks. Watch this space.
Each is absolutely superb and all three are given their moments to shine, especially during the macho, gung-ho splatterfest climax of the film.
What's more, the striking Dumont shows acting chops to match her good-looks as she delivers a strong performance as the no-nonsense ass-kicker that saves the boys' skins on a regular basis.
Elsewhere the wonderful Leachman ratchets up the laughs with a memorable turn as Carter's crotchety cat-lady neighbour.
Of course the cast are only as funny as the material they're given to work with and, thankfully, the writing team of director Landon, Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans, scripting Lona Williams' story, do a fantastic job, coming up with some disgustingly delightful set pieces. That so many of these involve body parts, of both living and undead characters, may well divide audiences. Personally, I found the scene in which Ben is forced to desperately cling onto something decidedly unsavoury to avoid falling into a horde of zombies side-splittingly funny.
However, the script isn't so shallow as to just give us a series of jokes — it also boasts some nice moments of real heart, most notably in the scenes exploring the friendship between the three male leads. Sure, there's a little romance along the way, but ultimately it is the bond between Ben, Carter and Augie that provides the real emotional hook for the film.
That Landon and his cinematographer Brandon Trost keeps the footage of the boys' antics so eye-popping throughout is a real bonus, especially during the aforementioned kick-ass climactic battle (in which the lads show off some seriously impressive home-made zombie-slaughtering hardware) and some surprisingly frenetic chase sequences as the fast-moving zombies (yep, we get running zombies again) mercilessly pursue our heroes. This is an area in which many horror-comedies fall short, but Scouts Guide... keeps the action exciting and, as is so important in the post Walking Dead zombie-movie landscape, the effects work is top notch, giving us some memorably horrific zombies along the way, plus provides some moments of stunning gore that would make the great Tom Savini proud. I'm loathe to spoil the finest moments here but suffice to say one zombie with a particularly gruesome facial injury at the heart of a hideous (and hilarious) set piece late on in the movie was especially memorable, while the reveal that the virus is not limited to humans provides another couple of great moments.
Credit really must go to Jared Baker's crew, the folks at Atomic Fiction and everybody else who delivered the fantastic effects of the film. Well done!

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Like so many comedies, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is only as strong as its humour. There are few decisions as subjective as whether something is funny. With as many gags as this one spits at us, it's only natural that some may miss the mark, but for the most part, I found the humour was spot on.
I found the film highly amusing, but I know there are plenty of people out there who will find the gratuitous T&A, toilet humour and bawdier elements puerile. If you enjoyed the likes of American Pie, you'll probably dig this. If however, gross-out teen comedies à la the Farrelly Brothers are not your cup of tea, you may want to keep on walking.
Also, if you've come here expecting serious scares (and God alone knows why you'd pick a film with this title if that really were the case), despite some visceral moments in the film, this is a zomcom that focuses firmly on laughs rather than frights. Be warned.
From a story standpoint, I've heard some complaints about a lack of definitive rules, with the zombies' behaviour changing to match the necessities of the story. Personally, I don't take too much offence at this — when a film is setting out to make me laugh, I'm prepared to cut it a little slack when it comes to universe-building. Once again, I point out that we have running zombies, so if you're one of the disgruntled few who wants their undead shuffling and decidedly brainless, Scouts Guides' zombies are likely to cause a little disappointment, even with the awesome make-up used to bring them to, erm, unlife.
Elsewhere, as much as I loved Dumont's role in the film, ultimately her character is kind of extraneous to proceedings. She doesn't really have much of an arc and, a couple of key interventions at desperate times aside, she doesn't play a huge role in the script. Although sometimes characters can exist just to add a little flavour to a film, and in this regard she more than does the job. Recently cast members Miller, Morgan and Dumont hinted that there are ideas for a sequel should this film be a success, so here's hoping that if that should prove the case, Dumont will be given something a little weightier to do.
Finally, Koechner (arguably the funniest man in the film) plays a character who loses his power of speech far too early on. When you have a man who has such a wonderful talent for delivering gags, it seems a bit daft to do this, but thankfully, he shows an equally fun aptitude for physical comedy, so it's not a total waste.

THE VERDICT: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is great fun — think Superbad meets Zombieland. It's a film that will appeal to anybody who doesn't take their horror-comedies too seriously and combines a talented cast with some superb visuals and plenty of laugh-out-loud gross-out humour. It may not quite hit the heights of zomcom classics like Shaun of the Dead and the aforementioned Zombieland, but it is still a fine movie and one that is well worth your time. It's already in US cinemas and will arrive on the big screen on this side of the pond this weekend. Check it out!

In the meantime, head over to the film's official Facebook page here. Why not give it a Like while you're there too?

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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