Question: What’s the one thing funnier than zombie boobs? If your answer is “zombie dicks, duh,” then boy, are you in for a treat. Originally titled Scouts Vs. Zombies, a more apt title for Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse might be Millennials Vs. Zombies, given its aggressively generational approach. Blending elements of Superbad and Zombieland, this teen-oriented horror-comedy was written by a team of four screenwriters, which is apparently how many people it takes to come up with a strip club called “Lawrence Of Alabia” and a visual pun involving a zombie literally eating a teenage girl’s vagina. We also get zombie diarrhea jokes, zombie fat jokes, zombie selfie jokes, zombie cat-lady jokes, and zombie stripper jokes. And when all of this starts to seem too crass, out come the clichéd lessons about the importance of friendship and being who you are.
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse is seemingly designed for a quick Halloween box-office sugar rush with little holdover potential; a Top 40 soundtrack and gags involving Soulja Boy and Britney Spears ensure that it will appear laughably dated within a decade at most. The cast is professional, but largely unexceptional—David Koechner, you deserve better—and all the women are supermodel-gorgeous; additional personality traits are nice, but secondary. (This is the kind of movie that posits that two men kissing is a gross-out joke, and two women kissing is sexy set dressing.) The strongest female character in the film works as a stripper, her skill with a shotgun attributed to an ex-boyfriend who took her to the gun range once a week. She’s always around to rescue our heroes, but at the same time she urges the most sympathetic of them to “man up” by just marching up to his best friend’s older sister—who he’s known for years and sees him as a brother—and making out with her, which probably wouldn’t be as welcome in real life as it is in the movie.
That kid is Ben (Tye Sheridan), one-third of a “Scout” (the “Boy” is silent) troop, along with his childhood friends Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan). Ben and Carter are sick of Scouts, and have been planning to quit for more than a year. But Ben can’t bear to tell Augie, who still prefers hiking and archery to beer and girls. So during a special overnight camping trip, Ben and Carter sneak away from the campsite, hoping to go to a warehouse rave thrown by some older kids and come back before Augie wakes up. Augie’s not as naive as he looks, though, and catches his friends mid-betrayal. Ben and Carter drive off after a spiteful confrontation, and upon returning to their suburban town, they find out that, while they were in the woods, some seriously apocalyptic shit has gone down.
On the plus side, the film is high energy and moves quickly. And some of the zombie gore effects are fun, reaching nearly Raimi-esque heights of splatter during the climactic battle. None of it is really scary, though, especially since it’s so predictable. So Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse has to live and die by its jokes, few of which will be funny to anyone mature enough to realize that high school politics become completely irrelevant the day after graduation.
And yes, it’s true that every generation of teenagers is composed, by and large, of solipsistic, sex-obsessed idiots who wouldn’t know a real problem if it reached inside their stomachs and started snacking on their entrails. It’s also true that every generation thinks that the one directly after them will be the death of civilization as we know it, so those two pretty much even each other out. No, the true fault here lies with movie studios, which sometimes conflate “hip” and “edgy” with “loud” and “dumb” in a cynical attempt to vacuum up said solipsistic, sex-obsessed idiots’ disposable income. (Whatever you do, avoid screenings boasting the “Ultimate Fan Experience,” 12 minutes of obnoxious meme-whoring over blaring electronic beats that plays at the beginning of the movie.) This is one of those times.