Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

In the past, I’ve always steered away from films with long silly titles, thinking they’re named that way to try and be catchy.  I just figure that if I can’t remember the whole title, or if it’s difficult to get all the words in the right order, the movie’s not worth my time and I usually move on to something else.  I really can’t give a definite answer of why I avoid films with the trivial aspect of a title that needs to describe the movie in more than three words.  But then I remember there were other films I had sidestepped from when released in theaters that I’d enjoyed when seeing them on home media.  Scott Pilgrim vs the World comes to mind…so does Tucker and Dale vs Evil (though that one hadn’t received a mass theatrical release)…The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is another film that I’d ended up loving.  So I guess you shouldn’t judge a film by its title, no matter the length.

Now, the film, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, came and went in the theaters and I hadn’t made a fuss about not seeing it, as you can tell by my reasoning up above.  But I’d kept an eye on it, as the TV spots seemed interesting, and even the trailer had me curious as to the what the story may be about.  I’d noticed there was a comedic side to the movie, not really taking the zombie genre too seriously, and that’s a whole other rationale as to why I’d decided to miss this film during its run in theaters—I really dislike when a horror film is made into a parody of itself.

When I’d noticed the movie was available on Netflix recently, I had placed it in my queue and sort of left it in limbo for a while, letting it stay towards the top but in the 20s somewhere.  I had simply forgotten about it and I guess it just made its way to the top spot without me noticing until it showed up in my mailbox the other day.  Even after opening it up and looking at the disc, I still left it aside and opted to watch other movies instead—either ones I own or others that showed up from Netflix.  But I hate to have discs just sit aside gathering dust and usually feel I have to make the decision: watch it or send it back.

So I’d watched it.

But before discussing it, let me synopsize it for you.

Three scouts—Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller), and Augie (Joey Morgan), on the eve of their last camp-out, discover the true meaning of friendship when they attempt to save their town from a zombie outbreak.

Not knowing what to expect, and still on the mindset of possibly stopping the disc and sending it back, I’d instantly got into this film right from the hilarious scene featuring Ron the Janitor (Blake Anderson) and his lip-sync performance of "Black Widow" by Iggy Azalea as he mopped the floors of the lab that contains the zombie virus.  Although it's a bit over-the-top with physical comedy that causes the contagion to be released, it's needed here for the type of movie that you'll be watching for the next hour and a half.  If you watch this film, and stop to think about it, had this film been a serious story, I don't think it would've worked...a comedic tone was the right decision.

Now it’s surprising that the director of this film—Christopher Landon—made a zombie genre film work so well as a comedy.  A year before, he’d directed Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, a serious film (and the last good film, if not the best, of that series), and you’d think someone who had helmed a film with such a serious tone would step into a comedy so easily.  Landon even had a hand in writing the screenplay with the help of three other writers (Carrie Lee Wilson, Emi Mochizuki, and Lona Williams).  Landon, et al, have very little experience on their IMDb.com résumé, each one only involved with a few movies or productions, that I’m surprised Paramount Pictures trusted this film with them.  Then again, promotion was scarce and I didn’t see much on TV or any trailers in theaters, so maybe they had some extra money to throw away and gave these unknowns a chance…?  I don’t know.  But they made it work and I hope this film garners a sequel…they can definitely play it out and extend this from a citywide plague to a statewide or countrywide pandemic.

Now, although the synopsis of the film is simplified to get the plot across, it’s a little more intricate with the relationship of the three main characters.  The three friends have known each other since grade school and have been scouts since then.  However, Ben, and especially Carter, have realized that they’ve outgrown the scouts now that they’re in high school and coming into their own, leaving Augie as the only one who’s committed to being a scout for life.  Each friend has their own reasoning for their decisions—Ben simply feels he’s outgrown the scout oath and uniform, Carter wants to be accepted by the older high schoolers and is extremely motivated by girls and the possibility of sexual relationships, and Augie is dedicated in his scouthood because of the dedication to his friends.  But the crux of all this is that Augie doesn’t know how his friends feel until he catches them in betrayal, causing a rift between the boys.  So, there’s a lot for them to overcome before they get together to save their town.

Also in this movie is David Koechner as Scout Leader Rogers, featured in only a few scenes, but funny as always.  I was thrown off by the toupee he wears during the film, but at first I guessed it was added to make him look a bit younger…I don’t know.  But his character is peppered throughout for comedy sake as a running joke…I won’t spoil it for you, but it made me smile every time.

Like Zombieland or the aforementioned Tucker and Dale vs Evil, you’re going to have a lot of fun with this movie.  I consider a comedy—or in this case, a horror-comedy—to be well done if I smile a few times during the story, but I laughed out loud throughout the course of it.  However, make no mistake, this is not a film you can take your kids to see, even if you’re okay with them watching zombie-type films with a bit of gore and violence.  Scouts features a lot of sexual content, a bit of nudity, a few quick parts with some uncomfortable gross-outs…so be warned that you may have to explain these scenes to the little ones.

Besides the main plot of having Ben, Carter, and Augie needing to save most of the kids who are holed up in some warehouse attending a rave, there’s a subplot of how our main protagonist, Ben, has feelings for Carter’s sister, Kendall (Halston Sage).  I felt it was a bit clichéd to feature this in the movie, seeing as how the film avoided many common story tropes throughout, but then the character of Denise (Sarah Dumont) was added, giving the subplot a love triangle feel to it.  I like how the filmmakers went this way, showing that the two girls were very different—Kendall was the nice girl that treated Ben like a brother, while Denise was the hard-ass chick that worked in the local strip joint.  Although the story ended a bit differently than I’d thought (regarding this love triangle), it was quite enjoyable to see this subplot play out.

Another funny stand-out in the movie is Carter’s nosy neighbor, Miss Fielder (Cloris Leachman).  Though she was the stereotypical old lady who snoops on her neighbors and intervenes with anyone who comes within her property, her house and cats play a pivotal—as well as hilarious—part near the end of this movie.  It was silly and not very realistic, but I laughed my ass off.

Now, like I’d mentioned, the friends do find themselves in a falling-out within their relationships, but when they finally resolve their differences and ready themselves to do battle against the zombies that are attacking their fellow high schoolers, I thought it was pretty cool.  As the boys go to the local hardware store to gather supplies, I like the way the filmmakers hint to us what each scout is doing by showing us their merit badges before seeing them gather their materials and putting their armaments together.  Knowing that they’ve each created weapons by their scout skills (I thought Augie’s was the best) and seeing them enter the party to save all the party-goers, you know it’s on!

As my final “bit” on Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, I’ve got to admit I was very surprised by what I’d seen.  The three main characters—Ben, Carter, and Augie—were very likable throughout.  Tye Sheridan, especially, is a standout; I’d mentioned in my X-Men: Apocalypse review that I’d liked him in the indie film Joe with Nicolas Cage, and he really holds his own (as well as something else in a very hilarious scene) here.  Logan Miller as the sex-crazed friend has some very funny scenes and you’ll love all his selfies that are featured during the end credits.  And speaking of the end credits, there’s a short scene midway through that caps off the movie funnily (I didn’t know that was a word until I’d typed it out right now).  Anyway, the movie kept my attention throughout and I’ll definitely see this again…perhaps purchasing it on Blu-Ray.  Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse shouldn’t be missed.

Thanks for reading!

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