Not even swift-moving enough to pass by as a disposable Halloween trifle, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse practically dares straight teen boys to continue clinging to their obsessions with T&A and gore. Only in that sense might its depiction of three pubescent brahs-in-training learning to grow up and take responsibility—yes, by kicking zombie ass—prove a self-fulfilling prophecy. Any other way you slice it, the flick is an artless, puerile shadow of the likes of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Cornetto trilogy, and exactly the sort of film that could help stave boys off from juvenilia.
High school sophomore Ben (The Tree of Life’s Tye Sheridan, eliding both the way of nature and the way of grace) is the agreeable center of his scouting troop, the common denominator between reckless-id Carter (Logan Miller) and eager-beaver Augie (Joey Morgan). Carter’s been itching to tear off his scouting uniform for years, and has almost convinced Ben to peace-out Augie, but their collective friendship stretches back too far for a clean, tearless exit.
As Augie gets ready to camp out overnight, thus earning him the highest level of servitude within their scouting genus, Carter and Ben catch wind of the secret senior rave and concoct a plan to sneak away overnight. That’s because Ben’s tipping point is the chance to slip digits to Carter’s older sister, Kendal (Halston Sage). And then a zombie outbreak disrupts their little hamlet, 30 miles away from Haddonfield—though presumably not the one in Illinois, where Michael Myers carved up all those babysitters.
From then on, Scouts Guide tries to summon up as much crass mayhem and pervert splatter gags as it can muster, including a pole-dancing routine that ends in an eruption of a far darker viscous substance than expected, a “hanging from a precipice” scenario that involves conveniently placed elastic genitals, and zombie Cloris Leachman gumming her punk neighbor’s teen ass, earning her place alongside Invaders from Mars’s frog-swilling Louise Fletcher among Oscar winners debasing themselves in genre fare.
It’s all more frantic than funny, tapping into Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi’s love of mealy carnage, but entirely lacking Dead Alive and Evil Dead 2’s sense of humor. How creatively bankrupt is Scouts Guide? Its arguable best joke—that aforementioned strip club is called Lawrence of Alabia—was lifted almost wholesale from Sex and the City 2’s worst.