Thursday, June 14, 2012

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012)

Oh goodness. Is it Asylum time again? So soon? At this rate you people will start to think I'll watch anything! And while that is usually true, I do have standards. As awfully entertaining as these movies can be, or at least the thought of these movies can be, I have to be in the mood for The Asylum. About 97% of the time I'm watching a movie by myself, which can get lonely after a while. And most of the time I just don't want to watch these things alone. Otherwise I just feel...kind of dirty and wonder what it is exactly I'm doing with my life.

I mean, it's not a very confidence building occasion to answer the question "What did you do last night?" with the answer "I watched a low budget, SciFi Channel caliber movie you've never heard of starring nobody you've ever seen which was itself a knockoff of a movie that isn't even out yet. No, I didn't have a date. What kind of stupid question is that? I was busy watching Abraham Lincoln kill zombies with a scythe."

If I had one, my eHarmony profile would be as deserted as a Kris Kross reunion concert.

Fortunately, this time I was not alone. I brought friends along for the ride on this one. It was a good call, because "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" is a movie that increases in enjoyment the more people you have watching it with you.

I was made aware of "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" from Brad Jones of The Cinema Snob. Well, not personally of course. I don't know the gentleman, much to my sorrow. He gave it a glowing endorsement which I held in fairly high regard, and it seemed like a great time. While there's been plenty of occasions where I've strongly disagreed with Brad on movies, he knows what he's talking about, and usually puts up a fairly strong case for any opinion he has.

But in this case, it seems to me that "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" can speak for itself. I mean, just look at this majesty. This...this is awesome.

"Four score and 7 headshots ago..."

And in a case of a bit of serendipitous luck, "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" was thankfully nearly as awesome as it seemed. Nearly. While overall it is still a low budget Asylum flick, it still possesses some obscenely over the top weirdness that tends to leave the viewer in a state of perpetual "Are they seriously going there?" And it is pretty glorious thing which is a key element of enjoying "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies," which is to really just sit back and enjoy the absurdity.

The setup for "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" is that when he was a child, Lincoln was forced to kill his parents during a zombie outbreak, leaving him as the only survivor of his town. Then, during the Civil War, strange stories of southern troops eating the flesh of people in a fort off the Mississippi River start to emerge. Everyone thinks it's bogus, but of course Lincoln knows exactly what's going on. So armed with his trusty scythe and his Secret Service, the President himself goes to the fort to settle things before it's too late. The President is going out to kick some zombie ass.

One, please.

In all honesty, the whole zombie thing is probably the least interesting part of the movie, shocking as that is to say. The brutally honest truth is that the zombies are overall only partly convincing. This is mostly to do with the fact that the zombies all move absurdly slow, even for "Night of The Living Dead" style zombies. They also have this cosmically stupid thing where it appears that they sleep. I really have no answer for it, I'm pretty sure Lincoln said they were sleeping at one point, but it's really confusing. They sleep standing up, just kind of frozen where they were, but the crazy part is that the zombies in this movie move so slowly that it's hard to tell if they were supposed to be asleep or not.

So yeah, the action...not so great. Although it was considerate of the zombies to all just stand there and not do anything while the heroes ran through their ranks obliterating them time and time again.

That's not to say that "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" isn't worth seeing, because it is, and the reason is threefold. The first is that the guy playing Lincoln, Bill Oberst Jr., is actually an incredibly convincing 16th President of the United States. Seriously, he could be Lincoln in an actual legitimate drama and do a great job, which isn't hard to imagine because out of everyone in the cast, Obert Jr. is playing it the straightest out of anyone there.

More American Presidents need a personal bladed weapon of choice.

This is a role which could have been hammed up to shreds. He's got one liners, he's quoting from his historical speeches except in this ridiculous scenario, he's shooting infected people in the head while his staff incredulously exclaim "Mister PRESIDENT!" and he's beheading zombies while grunting "Emancipate THIS!" It's all very surreal. The amazing thing is that there's not a single point in the entire film where Oberst Jr. does not maintain a firm grasp on his dignity. And the end of the film has him face his destiny with what can almost be called a heartbreaking emotional scene. It really is an amazing performance, especially for an Asylum movie.

The second reason is Jason Vail playing one of Lincoln's Secret Service, John Wilkinson. There's a twist going on with him that observant viewers will probably spot not too far into the film, but despite that he is a blast to watch. Wilkinson has some of the funniest moments in the film, including a "that's so racist that it is hysterical" line which brought me and my friends close to tears, and hams it all up to an outstanding degree. Whereas Oberst Jr. always played it straight, Vail has moments of pure scene-chewing madness that come off like Snidely Whiplash doing Hamlet.

Oh, by the way, they totally steal a scene from Hamlet. You ready for the crazy part? It 100% works in context.

Mind = blown

And finally, somewhat fitting in with Vail's character is the third reason to see "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies," which is the inclusion of historical figures. Now, this is something the movie does that will either be some of the most fun you get out of it, or this will completely annihilate it. I'm reluctant to spoil anything about it, because when the people and names fly at you, it's a wonderful experience sitting back saying "Wait...what? Did they say that's...seriously? They're going there? That...that...that's so dumb. Buh...wha...huh?"

And then you start laughing. It's great. Just be on the lookout for some pretty outlandish historical cameos and dubious origins for famous quotations.

I have to hand it to the Asylum. I think this may be one of the best movies they've ever done. Probably in the top 3.

THE BOTTOM LINE - This movie could almost be recommended to people who didn't know about The Asylum. Almost. It's still low budget, it starts to drag a bit by the end, and the action isn't great. That being said, it's a hell of a lot of fun. Get friends together and have a blast. Recommended.


  1. Pat,

    I thought Jason Vail was great in this, too! Thanks for giving him props. And yes, you did hear Lincoln say the zombies were sleeping. It was an added line, dubbed in afterwards to explain the sleepiness of the undead. Their sluggishness certainly made me feel sympathy for them; a bit like decapitating undead kittens.

    Richard Schenkman's words were deliciously fun to speak. I thought his decision to go for 19th century phrasing sprinkled with historical quotes was smart. Enjoyed reading your review.


  2. Well, I guess I can check THAT box... :D

    [x] Have the star of a movie read my review of it.

    You, Mr. Oberst, are a class act, sir. Thank you for taking the time to comment on some lowly movie buff's stream of consciousness ramblings. That's out of this world. I need a grinectomy.

    Please keep doing what you do, because you're damn good at it. I look forward to the next time I see you in the movies.

    A grateful fan,

  3. I also liked the theme they had running throughout the movie

  4. Pat,

    I was 2nd AD on the film. Your observations on the movie were spot on. As "Chief Zombie Wrangler," I asked Richard Schenkman which type of zombies he preferred: 28 Days or Night of the Living Dead. He chose NotLD. He's the boss. In some ways - and in the grander scheme of Zombie lore and evolution), their lethargy fits the time period.

    I had the good fortune of working with Jason in the scene where Wilkinson has his soliloquy with the zombie, Ainsley. That scene was the first shot in the film. Jason is a pro.

    It was also amazing to watch Bill memorize lines - sometimes plowing through pages of dense dialogue in mere moments. He always has a kind word for others and leads through a quiet professionalism.

    Thank you for the review.

    All the best,