Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (Richard Schenkman, 2012)
The lunatics who run The Asylum have done it again, though they mockbustered up a flick this time that pretty much flopped at the box office (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)–per IMDB’s numbers, it grossed $37 million on a $69 million budget. Even Arthur Andersen can’t make that one come out smelling like roses. I haven’t seen AL:VH, and I’m not likely to, as I am not a big fan of Seth Grahame-Smith’s. But after Bill Oberst kindly responded to my defense of his acting in the previous Asylum movie he acted in, A Haunting in Salem, I figured I’d give Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies a go, since Oberst had the lead role in it. And I have a lot of the same things to say about ALv.Z that I had to say about A Haunting in Salem, though the mix is slightly different.
Plot: Honest Abe, played as a child by Run‘s Brennen Harper, is forced to take up a scythe and help defend the family homestead from an outbreak of the living dead, which among others claims both of his parents. Fast-forward to the Civil War, Abe, now played as an adult by Oberst, is the President, the battle of Gettysburg has just flown by, and he is struggling to come up with some inspirational words to say on the battlefield when dedicating a monument to the turning point of the war. Meanwhile, a covert operation to take and hold a fort just off the Georgia coast has gone horribly wrong, with only one survivor returned, sick and delirious. When Lincoln interviews the man, he knows immediately what he’s dealing with, and he commands his secretary of state to loan him twelve newly-minted Secret Service agents to travel to Georgia with him and eradicate another outbreak of the living dead. Needless to say, Lincoln and his men not only have to deal with the living dead, but Johnny Reb as well, in the form of Pat Garrett (The Escapist‘s Christopher Marrone) and Gen. Stonewall Jackson (Coma‘s Don McGraw) himself, among others…
Simply put: I have never had as much fun with an Asylum mockbuster. Hell, I haven’t had as much fun with an Asylum movie of any stripe since Stuart Gordon’s King of the Ants a decade ago. Which is not to say it’s a great movie—the script, while clever at times (adapted by director Schenkman from a story by Karl T. Hirsch and J. Lauren Proctor, two people who obviously know at least a decent amount about Lincoln, enough to make the revisionist history bits quite amusing), tends to overreach, the romance subplot is jaw-droppingly silly, Schenkman’s direction given no indication he’s learned anything since his early days directing softcore fluff for the Playboy Channel. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The Asylum’s long-held tradition of casting actors with few-if-any credits, presumably in order to save money, often leads to whole casts of people who simply can’t act, while this time around they caught themselves a net full of certified yellowtail; there are a lot of those one-credit actors who hold their own when up against the much more experienced Oberst, and even the overactors (you can tell every time he’s onscreen Don McGraw is gearing up to chew as much scenery as possible) seem to be kept in check pretty well. The revisionist history bits are a hoot (for example, The Odd Life of Timothy Green‘s Cannon Kuipers pops up as a young Teddy Roosevelt, trapped by the living dead in Savannah but eager to fight, who ends up being one of Lincoln’s most valuable assets when the feces hits the fan), the jokes are actually kind of funny now and again. I’m not sure I’d believe myself had I not seen it with my own two eyes, but Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies is stupid fun of a type I thought The Asylum had forgotten how to do a decade ago. It’s actually worth checking out. ***
The official trailer is a miserable thirty seconds long, so instead here’s an almost twenty-minute interview with The Man himself, Bill Oberst Jr.!