Director: Christopher Landon
Cast: Tye Sheridan, David Koechner, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont
Screenplay: Carrie Lee Wilson, Emi Mochizuki, Christopher Landon
93 mins. Rated R for zombie violence and gore, sexual material, graphic nudity, and language throughout.
Christopher Landon (Freaky, Happy Death Day 2U) had been an accomplished writer for over a decade, but he hadn’t done much directing outside of a 2010 feature film and some shorts, but when he finally got behind the camera for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, his career as a horror filmmaker kicked into high gear, and he’s been making some quality films over the past several years. I initially missed his follow-up to The Marked Ones when it hit theaters, but today I rectified that mistake.
It’s the final camp-out for the remaining members of the local chapter of Scouts, with Ben (Tye Sheridan, Ready Player One, X-Men: Apocalypse) and Carter (Logan Miller, Love, Simon, Escape Room) have both decided to leave the group but haven’t worked up the courage to tell their friend and devoted Scout Augie (Joey Morgan, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, Flower). When Ben and Carter attempt to sneak away from the camp to get to the secret Senior party, they comes across the most unlikely of events: a zombie outbreak. Now, they must use their survival skills to save themselves and each other.
The zombie subgenre feels mostly played out in recent years, and with The Walking Dead television universe continuing to expand, it’ll be very tough to really surprise in this area of storytelling, but Scouts Guide is a mostly enjoyable horror comedy that plays up the raunchy nature of its leads while finding new innovative ways to re-murder the living dead.
Tye Sheridan should be a bigger name than he is, but he seems to pick projects that ignite conflicting viewpoints. I love Ready Player One and his take on Wade Watts, and I think he’s one of the best elements of some not great X-Men films. Here, he does most of the heavy lifting, and I really rooted for him here. He’s dealing with John Hughes-level personal teenager problems before the zombies even show up, and then Landon maneuvers his character arc mostly successfully through the film.
Now, as far as hitting that perfect horror/comedy vibe, this is one of Landon’s lesser endeavors. The horror hits well enough, but the comedy is hit & miss, with a slight emphasis on hit. More of it works than doesn’t, and the chemistry between the three Scout leads along with Sarah Dumont (Don Jon, Playing It Cool) as Denise, the server that runs across them when the chaos starts. The film is populated by a few other legends of the craft like David Koechner (Anchorman, Krampus) as the Scout Leader and Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show, Young Frankenstein) as the grumpy old cat lady next door.
I appreciate the attention that the screenplay has for zom/coms of the screen and other media. I have to assume that the Escape By Trampoline bit was lifted from Zombies Ate My Neighbors, one of my favorite video games ever, and I saw some interesting callbacks to scenarios in Left 4 Dead, so it seems like a small celebration of the wider subgenre.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse isn’t as clean as Landon’s later efforts, and it doesn’t hold a candle (or severed limb) to Shaun of the Dead, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a fun little splatstick horror comedy that plays up the goofy premise and it’s more fun because the characters are having fun, even if some of the jokes simply fail to land.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Christopher Landon’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, click here.