Zombie movies have been around for a long time. You can look as far back as 1932’s White Zombie or 1943’s I Walked With a Zombie as examples of traditional zombie movies, but these aren’t the zombies we’re familiar with today. George Romero took the notion of the zombie — which was either someone put under a hypnotic spell, or the undead also under someone’s control — and turned them into flesh eating monsters.
While Romero’s zombies would munch down on any part of you that looked tasty, it was 1985’s Return of the Living Dead that introduced the notion of zombies needing human brains for sustenance. And despite claims to the contrary, Return of the Living Dead also introduced the fast zombie to the genre, not 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake. There are no hard and fast rules for zombie behavior like there are, say, with vampires (even though modern writers have introduced new elements to that genre like … sparkles).
Which works out just fine for the new horror-comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (aka Scouts vs Zombies) which brings another zombie scourge upon the world. Three Scouts, Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan), are about to embark on one of their last adventures together, unbeknownst to Augie. Carter and Ben feel it’s time to grow up and move on, so they plan to exit the group after Augie celebrates his latest accomplishment (rising to the level similar to an Eagle Scout), but at their camp out, their Scout Leader (David Koechner) never shows up. Augie thinks it’s a test. Ben and Carter plan to sneak off after Augie goes to sleep, and they head to town where all hell breaks loose. With most of the town evacuated and the rest zombies, it’s up to the boys and a stripper … erm, cocktail waitress … to save the world.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is not one of those movies you can sit back and analyze. You either like it or you don’t. The film’s writers have done a great job of mixing a sort-of teenage coming-of-age story with a little raunchy sex comedy and straight up zombie horror. The three lead actors seem age appropriate (the 23-year-old pulls off the high schooler nicely) and do a great job of carrying the film, being alternately annoying kids or badass zombie killers (thanks to those scouting skills). Sheridan and Miller are both terrific with different personalities for their characters, but newcomer Morgan is the scene stealer as the kid who’s even the outcast with his friends but steps it up when he has to.
While the boys are front and center, they get some nice support from Sarah Dumont as Denise, the cocktail waitress who can kick ass with the best of them. Dumont gives Denise heart and brains instead of being just a typical damsel in distress bimbo. She ends up saving the boys more often than they do her, and she is able to impart some sage advice to Ben about how to approach the girl of his dreams (who happens to be Carter’s sister). David Koechner pretty much steals any scene he’s in pre- and post-zombie with his terrible toupee, love of Dolly Parton, and ability to keep popping up throughout the movie no matter what damage has been inflicted upon him (sit through the first part of the credits for a final moment with him).
You also can’t go wrong with adding Cloris Leachman to your movie. Leachman plays a cantankerous neighbor to Carter who becomes even more threatening — in a hilarious way — after she’s zombified. A super-fast zombie Leachman attacking teenage boys is worth the price of admission itself. And Patrick Schwarzenegger plays a douchebag senior perfectly.
The movie is full of laugh-out-loud moments, and lots and lots of bloody carnage, and writer/director Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) pulls it all together brilliantly, never letting the pace lag, keeping the laughs and horror tight and well-balanced. Having just rewatched Return of the Living Dead for the first time in several years (and the film’s blend of horror and comedy still holds up 30 years later), I’m comfortable with putting Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse right up there with it in this zombie horror-comedy genre.