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:

Dark Places: Charlize Theron and Bleak Americana From Gillian Flynn

Charlize Theron as Libby Day

From the pen of Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn; Dark Places, starring Charlie Theron,  gives us a slice of Americana that is indeed dark and very bleak. Where the dream has soured and affected all who dared to believe in it. A brother and sister who lived through a horrendous childhood event meet up years later after each have paid a price for their past lies.

It appears that Flynn’s books are made to be adapted for the cinema. The 2014 adaptation of Gone Girl was an award winning film that impressed all who saw it, it also proved that Rosamund Pike is one hell of an actress and that even Ben Affleck can look like a murderer in the right light.

Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, who also wrote the screenplay, Dark Places tells the story of Libby Day, the only other survivor from the 1985 Kansas City massacre of her family (her brother Ben – in prison for the murders for 28 years being the other).  12 year-old Libby climbed out a window on the fateful night of the slaughter and then follows suggestions from the local police that her brother committed the murders.

Years later an emotionally scarred Libby is out of money in a community out of good will. She gets a letter from a true crime club, called “Kill Club,” who want her to appear as a guest at their next convention. She meets entrepreneur and club owner Lyle Wirth. After she arrives, Libby learns that the club’s “solver” group want to prove her brother’s innocence.

This is an actor’s film. From Dan Hewitt Owens as retired cop Robert reading off the details of the crime at the Kill Club to Chloë Grace Moretz as the pregnant devil worshipping rich girl, this movie’s performers deliver, in spades. Nicolas Hoult (who worked on Mad Max: Fury Road with Theron) is perfect as the entrepreneurial laundromat owner who wants to solve a grave miscarriage of justice.

Charlize Theron is beyond brilliant as the moody, aloof and aggressive grown up Libby. Corey Stoll (who plays the lead in FX networks’s The Strain) plays the grown up Ben, the brother charged with and imprisoned for the murders of his mother (Christina Hendricks) and two of his three sisters. Stoll has very little screen-time but manages to say volumes with the small amount of time he is on screen. 

The child actors, Sterling Jerins as 12 year-old Libby and Tye Sheridan as 16 year-old Ben both deliver, as do the other “child” actors. Perhaps the most disturbing performance, and therefore most impressive, comes from Moretz. After her romantic role in If I Stay and her role as the teen prostitute in The Equalizer in 2014, she channels her darker, more adult, side and is suitably creeper and disturbing as Diondra, the rebellious Daddy’s girl.

Dark Places uses well placed flashbacks to bring the viewer ever closer to the real story behind the murders and this works well as both exposition and backstory reveals. As the film moves to its conclusion,  it is learned that past and present are intertwined and a lot more lies were told than either Libby or Ben realized.

Director Paquet-Brenner does a brilliant job with the film and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker, Captain Phillips) manages the switch between present day and the past brilliantly, the lighting changes between each, and as usual the film looks crisp and clear and spot on for each set piece.

Like Gone Girl, this film is a mystery/thriller.  Both female protagonists, in this film and GG, are flawed, psychologically damaged individuals. Theron’s character provides an intermittent voice over, posed as inner musings, that adds much to the story and, unlike other narrative films, does not intrude but helps to lets the viewer see her thought process.

There should be some serious gongs handed out to the performers come award time. Theron kills it as the flawed and scarred survivor and Moretz plays completely against type as the devil worshipping girlfriend.  This tale of lies, blocked memories and murder shows just how addictive Gillian Flynn’s work is.

Amazingly this feature is rated ‘R,’ apparently for the violence, which is not gory or overplayed at all and the sexual content which is pretty tame. Moretz’ character does have some hurried grapplings with Tye Sheridan’s character but, similar to her love scene in If I Stay , Chloe shows nothing in the way of anatomy. The language is a bit “close to the bone,” at one point Sean Bridgers as Runner Day, Libby’s estranged father calls wife Patty (Hendricks) the “C” word, which may be the main reason for the rating.

Dark Places is a compelling look at family tragedy and how scarred survivors of crime can be.  This is a 5 out of 5 stars film. At 113 minutes, the film moves at a rapid pace. Even with the multiple flashbacks this mystery grabs the viewers attention and holds it in a  vise-like grip right up to the final credits.

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