To even say that the zombie comedy is a tired, played-out genre feels like a tired, played-out thing to say. Maybe that’s what Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is banking on. How else to account for a movie that acts like it just discovered the comic potential of zombies moving painfully slowly, or of the gory fun to be had with creative decapitations? This one doesn’t even have the excuse of being pegged to a pre-existing franchise or property; its datedness feels purposeful, not accidental. Which is even sadder, in a way.
The story concerns three friends — chubby, dorky Augie (Joseph Morgan), earnest good guy Ben (Tye Sheridan), and horny wise-ass Carter (Logan Miller) — who’ve had to endure the humiliation of being the only Scouts in their troop, led by their hapless Scout leader, Rogers (David Koechner). Ben and Carter aren’t even really interested in being Scouts; they’ve stuck with it out of loyalty to Augie. They’re seniors in high school, and they want to get laid, and there’s a big dance the same night as one of their Scout outings. The two boys try to sneak away at night to hit the party, but then the titular zombie apocalypse hits. Accompanied by a leggy, bodacious, gun-toting strip club cocktail waitress (Sarah Dumont), our adolescent heroes start to discover that their Scout skills might finally come in handy as they do battle against the slowly rampaging hordes of the walking dead. That’s about it. The gags are mostly puerile and uninspired — like the film was dreamed up by a bunch of tired, wired 13-year-olds; it has their insistence but little of their invention.
Actually, let me backtrack a little on that last point. The film does briefly come alive when it gets really dirty and gross and perverted. At one point, a dude gets his ass eaten out by a zombie; not long after, a girl is eaten out by a zombie (one with no chin and a long, slivery tongue, no less). A teenage boy takes the time out to fondle one zombie’s amazing breasts. And in the film’s most bravura moment (yes, I said bravura), one of our heroes hangs helplessly from a window with only an old rubbery zombie penis to hold on to — and, yes, it stretches. Anyway, it’s sickening and stupid and evil and let us never discuss it again, but it’s also one of the rare moments when Scouts Guide actually starts to become its idealized self. But then it’s back to the usual old laugh-out-loud gags about blood and guts and exploding heads. You know, for kids.