Zombies are the blue-collar monsters in horror. They aren’t very complicated creatures and they work well with almost any budget size without relying heavily on acting. Zombie comedies are especially popular, with new releases finding distribution every few months. Now, director and Christopher Landon, who is known for his work in the Paranormal Activity series (did I just hear a collective groan?), takes a shot at his very own zom-com.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse was released on October 30, 2015 via Paramount Pictures in just over 1500 theaters nationwide. It failed to make back its $14 million dollar budget, coming in twelfth at the box office. The film was available on VOD by the beginning of December 2015, which is lightning speed compared to other theatrical releases, due to Paramount Pictures experimenting with quicker digital releases for select films.
The film begins with a cameo by Workaholics’ Blake Anderson who plays a daft research facility janitor. Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” plays through his headphones as Anderson lip-syncs and dances with his mop. He starts the whole apocalypse mess soon thereafter by fooling around with a dead body. The entire opening is pure comedic gold and sets pretty high expectations for the remainder of the film. While no other scene truly matches the hilarity that we see here, there’s still some disgusting gore and fun humor to be had.
As the title Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse suggests, high school scout members Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller), and Augie (Joey Morgan) battle their way through a zombie apocalypse. The guys team up with a cocktail waitress (Sarah Dumont) and face down hordes of undead, including their reanimated scout leader (David Koechner). They’re on a mission to find Carter’s sister (Halston Sage) before the army obliterates the town with bombs.
It’s blatantly obvious that a lot of the budget went into the makeup and special effects, which were a mix of practical and CGI. Special Effects Designer Tony Gardner, who got his big break working on Return of the Living Dead (1985), created the effects with his company, Alterian, Inc. Their work with a reanimated deer and cat using animatronics added some old-school cheesy fun. However, there were a couple of CGI effects that just didn’t do it. They were beyond fake looking and took away from otherwise good scenes.
Another issue was that not all zombies looked like they were from the same apocalypse. With varying features and different levels of decay, it didn’t really make much sense. It is also hard to say how exactly the zombies are supposed to function. Some are typical mindless eating machines while others can talk, shoot guns, and even perform a strip tease on a pole. While the zombie strip dance wasn’t half bad, it’s all still confusing.
With those things out of the way, let’s look at some positives that work for Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. First, the soundtrack is pretty kick ass. Some of the artists featured were The Pack A.D., Scorpions, Dillon Francis, and even Dolly Parton. Trust me, Dolly totally works for the scene. To top it off, seasoned music composer Matthew Margeson produced an orchestral score that was rich, intense, and chaotic. It gave me wonderful flashbacks of Return of the Living Dead at times.
The writers must have had a lot of fun with the zombies. There were strippers, cops, a Britney Spears singing zombie, the crazy cat lady, and a cameo by adult film star Missy Martinez. Yes, she shows her giant zombie boobs. Finally, the main cast gave solid performances. While it was obvious that Tye Sheridan and Logan Miller had more experience behind the camera than Joey Morgan, all three guys were fun to watch and carried lead roles well. David Koechner always plays the same character, give or take some crudeness, but his scenes are guaranteed to bring laughs and they do. The only actors to bring scenes down were Halston Sage and her boyfriend, played by Patrick Schwarzenegger. They were more lifeless than the zombies, but thankfully their appearances were brief enough.
Although Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse isn’t a perfect movie or higher form of entertainment, it is well worth the watch if you’re in the mood for crude and silly humor, blood splatter and zombies. Hell, I would rewatch it again for Blake Anderson’s cameo alone. All in all, the film is a decent addition to the zom-com subgenre.