Wednesday, November 4, 2015

'Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse' (2015) directed by Christopher Landon

 Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is not a good movie. It's moronic, thinly written, questionably shot and has a creepy obsession with dead women's breasts. 

That said, it does have a scene where one of our plucky heroes dangles from a window while clutching onto an elderly zombie's cock. Said cock stretches and eventually breaks - our hero falls from the window, bounces off a trampoline and away from the zombie horde. He then throws the severed zombie cock away in disgust, sending it spiralling through the air - right into the mouth of another zombie.

Right in the mouth!

I laughed. I didn't feel particularly great about laughing at such a brainless gag but hey, the sense of humour wants what it wants. Scouts Guide... hits that level of idiocy early on and largely maintains that trajectory for its entire 90 minute-ish run-time.

Our three Scout heroes are: Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan). They're 16 year old Scouts, Ben and Carter reluctantly remaining in what they see as a distinctly uncool organisation to support their friend Augie until he reaches the level of Condor scout. Mocked by the cool kids and spending their evenings isolated in the woods they're eager to get out and party.

These ambitions are somewhat curtailed by the zombie apocalypse. These are 'yer basic viral outbreak/Romero shamblers brand of zombie - though here less social commentary and more walking tub of blood n' guts. The three Scouts are soon joined by stripper-with-a-shotgun Denise (Sarah Dumont) - and set out on a mission to rescue Carter's hot older sister from the Super Secret Seniors rave. Predictably enough their various Scout skills (whittling, knot-tying, DIY, orienteering etc) turn out to come in surprisingly useful when dealing with zombies - and so it goes...

Scouts Guide... is violent, crude and obsessed with tits -  precision-engineered to appeal to American teenage boys. It's also got a thumping EDM soundtrack; director Christopher Landon passing up no opportunity to edit around some thunkingly jagged bass drop. Credit where credit's due, the film will undoubtedly appeal to its target market, though anyone else may find it largely unbearable.

Despite a couple of ludicrously silly gags, the majority of the film plays out with a studious sense of duty. We mildly skip by some out-dated gay panic jokes revolving around the Scoutmaster's passion for Dolly Parton; a head-scratching camp/homeless/mentally ill Britney Spears fan and so on. 

 Further annoyances come in the bone-headedly predictable way the film objectifies women. Most egregious is Sarah Dumont's stripper with a heart of gold - a particularly thankless role - functioning entirely as a sexual outlet for the virginal boys. Oddly, at a couple of points Landon engages in a bit of (I assume inadvertent) self-critique - serving up bizarre scenes where a rotting stripper dances for the leering Scouts, or they take a selfie with a particularly busty zombie policewoman. There's probably something interesting to be said about porn-addled teenagers lusting over the mindlessly drooling dead - but I'll grant that this might not be the place for it.

Scouts Guide... is no great shakes directorially either. The undisputed king of the zombie comedy genre is Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead (with Ruben Fleischer's Zombieland bringing up the rear). That film is shot with panache, every gag accentuated by the editing, camera motion and firm timing. Scouts Guide... doesn't even come close: during a scene where a zombie is battered to Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 I was craving something similar to Shaun's rhythmic beating to Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.

However, despite all the above, Scout's Guide... isn't as downright awful as you might expect. It's short, breezy, the three Scouts are performed adequately (though Tye Sheridan is a loooooong way from Terrence Malick right now) and there are a handful of gigglesome moments. I've had worse times.


The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is out on 6 November.

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