What’s the difference between bad horror movies and bad horror comedies? Bad horror movies might actually get laughs.
A misbegotten mash-up of “Superbad” and “Night of the Living Dead” (or one of the latter’s many cheesy rip-offs), “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” spends its first third explaining its high-concept premise and its last hour spitting out gags that run the gamut from mildly tasteless to appalling. It’s curious that a project once called “Boy Scouts Vs. Zombies” ended up venturing so far into raunch-com territory.
Promising young star Tye Sheridan — best known for working with arthouse directors Terrence Malick and Jeff Nichols — looks more unsteady here as Ben, a high schooler who’s been scouting with his two best friends since their elementary years. While the trio is on a camping trip, a nearby lab accident transforms most of their small-town neighbors into snarling flesh-eaters. When they get home, they join forces with a strip-club waitress (Sarah Dumont) to battle the undead while trying to warn the unwitting upperclassmen at a warehouse party.
Director Christopher B. Landon and his team of screenwriters pop out a few clever ideas, such as the addition of zombified animals and an elderly monster (played by the venerable Cloris Leachman) who can only gum her prey. But the decision to load up on sex jokes warps everything — tone and plot — to the apparent age of the protagonists, who all look a lot older than 15 or 16.
As horror, “Scouts Guide” is too frivolous to thrill. As comedy, it leans too much on scenes that see the teens groping big-breasted topless zombies or the beasties sexually molesting young girls. The aim here seems to be to replace startled gasps with shocked guffaws. The results are contrary to Scout Law — not Kind, Clean or Reverent.
‘Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse’
MPAA rating: Rated R for zombie violence and gore, sexual material, graphic nudity and language throughout.
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: In general release