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Sarah Dumont, Tye Sheridan and Logan Miller set out to save a group of partiers from a zombie apocalpyse.

Photo credit: Jaimie Trueblood/Jaimie Trueblood

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Written by
Emi Mochizuki, Carrie Lee Wilson and Christopher Landon
Directed by
Christopher Landon
Starring
Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Sarah Dumont
Classification
18A
Country
USA
Language
English

Since its inception in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has served more than 114 million youths and awarded 117 million merit badges. There are 51 Norman Rockwell works with Scouting themes, and 181 Scouts have become astronauts. You won't find a more well-adjusted group of people in neckerchiefs.

For its part, Hollywood has upheld the organization's pristine image with such films as Scouts to the Rescue (1939), Follow Me, Boys (1966), and Up (2009), all featuring young male protagonists who are, indeed, perfect Boy Scouts. Up until, of course, Wes Anderson's wayward Sam Shakusky, who abandoned the Camp Ivanhoe Scouts for Suzy Bishop in Moonrise Kingdom, and now Christopher Landon's unruly Scouting trio in the horror comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.

The Boy Scouts of America isn't touching the R-rated romp with a marshmallow-topped stick – telling The Globe and Mail that it's not affiliated with the film and "doesn't endorse its content or depicted themes" – though it should: It's the best public relations boost Scouting has had since it ended its ban on gay leaders, not to mention a pretty decent zombie film.

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Landon is known for penning the 2007 thriller Disturbia as well as co-writing a number of Paranormal Activity films, but with Scouts Guide – think Project X meets Zombieland meets Attack the Block – the director makes an impression with a fast-paced and fresh approach that keeps up with his young, breakout cast.

Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan) have been best friends since meeting through Boy Scouts as children, but now in their sophomore year, Scouting and its requisite uniform – "the male version of a chastity belt," Carter grumbles – has lost its charm, and everyone but Augie wants to quit. Tensions come to a head one Friday night when the Scouts ditch a camping trip for a senior party, but find that their town has been evacuated after a science experiment at a nearby lab goes wrong.

Soon, the boys link up with Denise (Sarah Dumont), a waitress at the local strip club – the most logical sanctuary for teenage boys in case of a zombie apocalypse – and together the group sets out to find, and save, the party, held in an abandoned warehouse that is zombie-free, though not for long.

The film, as entertaining as it is, doesn't exactly further a genre that has been stale since the success of 2013 rom-zom-com Warm Bodies. Although the makeup and visual effects will meet the standards of the genre's disciples, there's little that's groundbreaking about another American suburb overrun by ghouls after some bad science.

What's promising about Scouts Guide, though, are its unlikely heroes. Never mind fancy artillery, these superhandy Scouts can tie myriad knots, know their way around a Swiss Army Knife and don't need a lighter to start a fire.

And anchored by strong performances across the board – particularly from Sheridan, whom we're bound to see more of following turns in Mud and The Stanford Prison Experiment – Landon's trio, unlike most Hollywood Boy Scouts, are far from perfect. They curse, drink (or at least try to) and break into strip clubs.

They might not represent the values and ideals of the Boy Scouts of America – they are, after all, typical American teenagers – but they're probably the most realistic representation of Boy Scouts we've seen in years. And if slaying zombies with a nail-spewing crossbow engineered on the fly isn't community service, what is?

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