Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015): The Running Dead (Review)

Screen shot from Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Directed and co-written by Christopher Landon (the other two scribes were Jason Pagan and Andrew DeutschmanScouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is great gory fun. With scores of the running dead chasing after the last three boy scouts in town, and a stripper,  these four must pull out all  the stops to save the senior class from the living dead.

The film starts with a janitor getting infected by a zombie under study at  a laboratory. (a nice nod and wink to “The Thing“)  The newly created zombie bites a lab technician and the virus spreads across the town like wildfire.

Ben (Tye Sheridan) and his two  best friends, Augie (Joey Morgan) and Carter (Logan Miller) are meant to celebrate Augie earning his “condor” badge.  Ben and Carter are invited to the secret senior party and decide to sneak out of the celebratory campout. 

They learn that the town is overrun with adrenaline fueled zombies and after joining forces with former classmate turned stripper Denise (played by Sarah Dumont) they go to save the seniors at the dance. 

Along the way they pick up Augie, who had to fight off their Dolly Parton loving scout master Mr. Rogers (David Koechner) and have to fight off Carter’s crazy neighbor Miss Fielder (Cloris Leachman). They also have to work their way around a town full of zombies.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is brilliantly funny.  It has enough campy humor to please everyone and the ‘R’ rating  allows it to serve up huge helpings of gore and exploding heads.  (The scene with the trampoline and dangling genitalia is a show stopper.)

There are homages scattered throughout.  These include Shaun of the Dead, Braindead (aka Dead Alive) amongst others.  The film is funny, but there is enough viscera and blood to fill the deserted building that the senior dance takes place in to please most gore hounds.

At one point the trio of overgrown scouts become teen MacGyver‘s as they have to create a load of weapons to take on this speedy zombie horde. The weapons are quirky and effective.

Arnold’s son Patrick Schwarzenegger  does an excellent job as the obnoxious senior Jeff; The film is worth the price of admission just to see the brilliant Cloris Leachman as a zombie. The scene in her character’s  house is excruciatingly funny.

All three of the male actors excel in their “nerds turned heroes”  roles.  Kudos to David Koechner  as the seemingly indestructible scout leader Mr. Rogers (Get it?).  This prolific character actor gives a great comic performance.

Director Landon pulls everything  together with a sense of humorous urgency that makes the film move along at a cracking pace. It all comes together almost perfectly. Even the sight of the three lads in their scout uniforms throughout the film helps to focus on the absurdity of the situation.

The chemistry between the three male leads is spot on. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse  throws a lot of gags into the mix. Some are a tad sophomoric (such as Carter taking selfies while trapped in a jail cell) but all the jokes add up to a comedy horror film that is entertaining and great fun.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a rock steady  3.5 star film.  It delivers a far amount of laughs but little in the horror department; there really are no scary moments.  Despite the presence of zombies this action horror is all comedy.  The film is currently streaming on Hulu. Check out the trailer and then check out the film:

Adult World (2014): Poetry and Pain Comedy

Emma Roberts as Amy and John Cusack as Rat Billings in Adult World
Directed by Scott Coffey, it is his second feature length film sitting in the driver’s seat and perhaps best known as the film that brought Evan Peters and Emma Roberts together, Adult World was produced in 2013 and not released till 2014 it has John Cusack doing “John Cusack” and is all about youth, ambition, dreams, poetry and pain. It is a comedy.

A pretty good one in fact. Following the adventures of Amy (Roberts) who is a wannabe poet that has a poster on her wall about Sylvia Plath. She graduates college and has difficulty finding a job. Her father tells her that they can no longer support her dream of being a published “wunderkind” poet and that she needs to find a job. In the middle of winter she learns that these are scarce and ends up working in an adult sex store.

There she meets the manager Alex (Peters) who shows her the ropes after the shop’s owners, Mary Ann and Stan hire her (a delightful pair of cameos by legendary actress Cloris Leachman and longtime prolific actor John Cullum). She also meets transgender “diva” Rubia, played by Armando Riesco (National Treasure, Garden State) who hates her on sight but later helps the youngster out.

Before leaving college, Amy discovers a book of Rat Billings’ poetry (Cusack) and becomes a diehard fan. She meets the man at a book signing and alternatively gushes all over him and convinces him she is a deranged stalker. He ends up becoming a reluctant mentor while acting like an all around heel.

This film is funny, despite the fact that Cusack could have phoned his part in. The role of curmudgeonly “over-the-hill” wunderkind poet was not a stretch for the actor although he pulls it off just by being “John Cusack.” Evan Peters, who proved back in 2010 in Kick-Ass that he could do a comedic role, is brilliant as the slightly quirky sex store manager.

The film belongs to Emma Roberts however. Her performance as the immature Sylvia Plath idolizer, which then changes to “Rat Billings” fan, is just brilliant. Emma, daughter of Eric and niece of Julia, Roberts can do comedy. Full stop. Her timing was good and while she’s proven that she can do horror, Scream 4 (2011) and American Horror Story season four, she shows in Adult World that, like her the rest of her acting family, she can do pretty much anything.

The only real complaint about the film is its message which states, via the vitriolic Rat Billings, that not everybody can be great and that if everyone was talented the world would be a pretty boring place. That one ambiguous statement is tempered a bit by the publishing of Amy’s first story; a bit of sexy prose written by a virgin that is printed in an adult magazine and the fact that one never really believes Billings when he says it.

Adult World works mainly because of the chemistry between Roberts and Peters. Of course the two sparked off one another so well that a real life romance ensued but, to be fair, Emma had great interaction with everyone on the film, even Cusack who did not appear to put a whole lot of effort in his role. (Having said that, his character was pretty non-interactive and fairly weird…so Cusack could have been, in fact, acting his little cotton socks off.)

It is quite nice to see Malcolm in the Middle actress (she plays the teacher who recognizes the boys high IQ) Catherine Lloyd Burns who played Amy’s mother in the film.

The film is on Showtime, via Hulu as add-on, and is worth the time spent watching it. Just the pot scene (“My teeth feel so big!”) alone is enough to make the film a good one. This coming of age feature works and the only shame is that the two love interests are no longer together in real life. A 4 out of 5 star film losing a whole star mainly because of Cusack’s apparent lack of interest.

Mel Brooks Honoured at the AFI with the Lifetime Achievement Award

Mel Brooks Honoured at the AFI with the Lifetime Achievement Award