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In the world of the apostrophe-challenged Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, zombies can shoot guns, roller-skate and sing Britney Spears songs. It’ll be hard selling that to genre buffs, but a disregard for the rules established by George Romero (or the alternatives imagined by Danny Boyle) is far from the only problem with Christopher Landon’s film, which does prove one thing fairly handily: Even beings deprived of the intellect and spirit granted to living humans can team up to produce a major studio motion picture. While a Halloween berth may supply an early box office bump for this fairly terrible attempt to graft horndog teen comedy onto the walking-dead template, word of mouth will not be kind.
After debuting in a Terrence Malick movie and graduating immediately to Jeff Nichols’s great Mud, Tye Sheridan goes slumming here as the blandly likeable Ben, one of three Scouts (don’t call ’em Boy Scouts) struggling to maintain their dignity at a high school where everyone else has moved on to parties and sex. While buddy Carter (Logan Miller) is desperate to quit scouting and touch some boobies, Joey Morgan’s Augie remains devoted to Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner), and is excited about the camping trip on which he will finally become this film’s equivalent of an Eagle Scout.
In the time it takes three boys to pitch their tents and make s’mores, their hometown is ravaged by a sudden outbreak of zombieism, with the unaffected populace evacuated to quarantine zones. That process takes substantially longer in Fear the Walking Dead, but then FTWD hopes to be taken seriously, a concern not afflicting Landon and company: When the boys make their way back to their zombie-ravaged homes, the monsters they face are little more frightening than the prospect of wearing knee-shorts and merit badges to a party full of hot 18-year-old girls and their douchebag beaus.
That’s what the scouts wind up doing eventually, attempting to rescue the popular kids who’ve shunned them from the flesh-eating horde invading their secret party. But before the picture gets around to the violent “be prepared” payoff of its slim scouts-vs-zombies premise, it drags its knuckles through a strip club, a cat lady’s living room, and the home of a Dolly Parton obsessive whose stereo is conveniently cued up to play “9 to 5” while carnage unfolds.
That workplace-drudgery anthem is appropriate here in ways the filmmakers surely don’t intend. Or maybe they do? When costumers chose the undersized tank top for the strip-club waitress who teams up with the boys; when the makeup crew applied corpselike veins to the undead breasts Carter will grope; when Landon instructed a young actress to watch a reality-TV show on her phone while awaiting cunnilingus in order to sell a particularly hard-to-buy zombie gag — were they all secretly humming along with Dolly, thinking “well, it’s a living”?
Production company: Broken Road Productions
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Cloris Leachman
Director: Christopher Landon
Screenwriters: Emi Mochizuki, Carrie Evans, Christopher Landon, Lona Williams
Producers: Bryan Brucks, Andy Fickman, Todd Garner, Betsy Sullenger
Executive producers: Samson Mucke, Sean Robins
Director of photography: Brandon Trost
Production designer: Nathan Amondson
Costume designer: Marylou Lim
Editor: Jim Page
Music: Matthew Margeson
Casting directors: Joseph Middleton, Courtney Sheinin
R, 92 minutes
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