A critical guide to Scout(‘)s Guide

Many criticisms can be levied toward Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse, first being the missing apostrophe in the title. Second is the artless, childish attitude with which Scouts approaches a typically artless B-level zombie genre. Third, it’s derivative (even hopeless) as blood and boobs drown the piece in an agonizing, trashy death.

But, it’s kind of awesome.

With an eye for lavish gore, Scouts Guide is all guilty, lacking any semblance of dignity. Three too-old-for-scouts-but-still-scouts are trapped between the masses of small town zombies, which eventually leads to a life saving grip of zombie shaft. Yes, that’s what it means.

Teen drivel all the way – the type which used to lure 13-year olds toward bulky VHS box art at video stores – Scouts Guide is brainless comedic escapism. The joke are puerile, the kids are fed on hormones, and their characters are needlessly basic. The dork, the halfway dork, and the not dork sweep through their town covered in undead and undead intestinal goop. That’s 90-minutes of this movie.

It could be said, “They don’t make them like this anymore,” but that’s an untruth. They’re made all the time since the fetish over zombies became something to swoon over in geek culture. Zombieland is their king, with outliers like the surprising Warm Bodies simmering in the middle. Scouts Guide is reluctant to break away, merging the promiscuity of Porky’s to the stale – too stale – gamut of zombie flicks. This is a film on the offensive, meaning both attack and indignation.

… this shamefully pleasurable gala of splatter is hard not to find entertaining.

Underneath is that bit of classism which comes into play in movies like this. Writers think up a “what if?” and the possibilities write themselves. See Attack the Block for “what if aliens invaded the ghettos?” Scouts Guide is the, “what if middle class scouts used a knot to slaughter a zombie?” Meh. Yet execution matters and the loud, furious pace working through this shamefully pleasurable gala of splatter is hard not to find entertaining. Studios have learned the marks needed to succeed in this sub-genre. They’ve arrived here after market and focus group research, in some ways their lowest but also their highest point.

There is an audible wish for this movie to garner cultish appeal. Studios have apparently figured out the key there too. However, the needs have always been a lust for outrageous, taste slapping comedy (purposeful or accidental) and nudity. No shocker, Scouts Guide has both. Quality comes down to how well brains explode and they do some good ‘splodin. A few teen sex gags and awkward encounters and poof, out pops the expected tale as advertised. Crude laughs keep spewing forth and they never lack a zest for their existence. You win Scouts Guide, even if every sensible critical faculty says you shouldn’t. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse Blu-ray screen shot 2

Little is left on the table to visually dissect, Scouts Guide a plain-in-appearance feature with limited heft. Hit the checklist. Facial detail is fine. Black levels are fine. Contrast is fine. Color is fine. So it’s all fine.

Taking place primarily during one night, Scouts Guide will need to hold together under limiting conditions. There are doses of sharpness early. Some of the forest scenery is defined. Into the city center afterward, only close-ups will produce anything of significance.

It’s a fight to extract anything of merit. A bright color palette turns necessarily drab as the movie rushes forward. Darkness cloaks the finer points which would normally come from the Arri Alexa. At least the disc is noiseless, a problem which has certainly been dealt with as digital cinematography has moved on. Paramount’s disc is a good one to. It’s fine here. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Thankfully, the surround mix has energy to discuss. Gore moments are all pretty grand, situating flesh and splintering bone in the proper channel(s). Scouts Guide sort of announces this mix, first by blaring pop music which tests the limit of the subwoofer and then with a roadkill incident wherein the animal flies over the roof of a car.

The fun can carry over from there, offering superb separation in the surrounds if not too much in the stereos. Front soundstage work is tight. Zombie snarls pan all around anyway so missing the lack of audible distance is easy to do. Gunshots and debris fields sweep behind. Even some dialog is situated hard into the left rear. An explosion tops off this mix with a bit of oomph, even if lacking in power. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Bonus features are led by the enjoyable Scouts Guide to Filmmaking, a fun half hour making-of which covers all of the main production points. Things are shorter from here, about five minutes each except for two short deleted scenes. Zombie Makeup FX Handbook details the innovative processes which allowed for continuity between different shooting days. Undead Movement Guidelines shows how each zombie actor was trained to move uniquely, and Uniforms and You focuses on costume work. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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