A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
For about as long as zombie movies have been a part of the cultural firmament, people have also produced films that have attempted to explore the lighter and funnier side of the deceased returning from the grave, and their single-minded desire to chow down on the brains of the living. In this regard, I think we can all agree on two things. The first is that if we were to compose a list of the best zombie comedies ever made, it would certainly include such titles as George Romero's scathingly satirical "Dawn of the Dead" (1979), the punk rock cult favorite "Return of the Living Dead" (1985), the Grand Guignol classic "Re-Animator" (1985), the much-beloved British entry "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) and "Zombieland" (2009), the cheerfully goofy romp that featured Bill Murray in one of his funniest unexpected cameo appearances that he has delivered over the years. The second is that there is no need to make any room on that list for "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse," a deeply irritating horror-comedy that might have worked as a "Funny or Die" short but is pretty much DOA as a feature-length concern.
Ever since they were young, three lifelong friends—nice guy Ben (Tye Sheridan), obnoxious horndog Carter (Logan Miller) and sweet-natured doofus Augie (Joey Morgan) have been Scouts (not Boy Scouts, as I am sure the Boy Scouts would like you to know) under the tutelage of Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner). However, the three are approaching their junior year of high school and their attitudes towards scouting have shifted a bit—Augie is still a true believer, Carter finds it embarrassing and wants to quit while Ben is torn between his loyalty towards Augie and his desire to impress Carter's hottie sister, Kendall (the wonderfully named Halston Sage). When Ben and Carter are unexpectedly invited to the big secret senior party happening on the same night as an all-important camp-out in the woods, the two plot (reluctantly on Ben's part) to sneak away after Augie and Scout Leader Rogers fall asleep to hit the party and stick with the plan even when the latter never shows. Of course, Augie catches them and runs off crestfallen at the betrayal.
Oh yeah—the zombies. It seems that at a nearby research facility, things have gone bad and a zombie plague has been unleashed with early victims including a deer and Scout Leader Rogers. By the time that Ben and Carter get back to town, most of the populace have been evacuated with only the legions of the walking dead and the partygoers left behind. Eventually, Ben and Carter figure out what is going on and after reuniting with Augie, they realize that it is up to them to utilize their scouting skills to fight off the relentless waves of zombies, find their classmates and lead them to safety before a military airstrike obliterates the town and anything left in it. Helping them in their fight is Denise (Sarah Dumont), a cocktail waitress at the local strip club who not only saves Ben and Carter from an attack by a zombie stripper but who later goes above and beyond the call of duty in trying to help Ben muster the courage to show Kendall how he feels about her.
Like those previous examples of successful zombie-related comedies that I mentioned, "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" is a gory black comedy in which much of the humor is centered around the various disgusting ways in which the zombie hordes are dispatched throughout. The difference is that those films brought other things to the table as well—social satire, knowing spoofs of the history of zombie cinema and (with the possible exception of "Return of the Living Dead") characters who were likable and funny enough to make one hope that they might somehow survive the apocalypse. "Scouts Guide," on the other hand, contains none of those aspects and is all the worse for it. Instead, it merely offers up a series of gross sight gags that don't really have much going for them other than their willingness to nauseate viewers, and to crib at will from its predecessors. (In the most blatant appropriation, the most infamous bit from "Re-Animator" is redone here without a fraction of the wit or audacity of the original.)
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A look at John Sayles' brilliant "The Brother From Another Planet."