"Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" Review
"Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies" (2012) - Directed by Richard Schenkman
The wacky mockbuster makers at The Asylum, the low-budget movie studio everyone loves to hate, were busy beavers (as usual) during the summer of 2012. RedBox machines and On Demand video services were well stocked with a bumper crop of the Asylum's trademark low-budget knock-offs of that Summer's brand-name blockbuster movies, including their Battleship clone, American Warships (originally titled American Battleship to ride on the coat-tails of that certain other ship movie, until Universal Studios complained and forced a last minute title change) and their Prometheus wanna-be, Alien Origin. One wonders why they didn't bother to whip up a quickie super-hero team-up flick called The Revengers while they were at it, starring The Bulk, Almighty Thor, the White Widow, Hawkguy, and Metal Man. (But I digress...)
In case it isn't immediately obvious, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, was a not-so-subtle bite (pun not intended) off of 20th Century Fox's big-budget historical horror flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. When AL vs. Z. landed at my local RedBox kiosk I had a free rental coming to me, so I simply couldn't resist picking it up. Rest assured, when the Great Emancipator meets The Asylum, historical accuracy gets firmly knocked on its ass!!
The Story...(WARNING: Spoilers!)
Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies' prologue introduces Honest Abe as a young boy working in the fields at the family homestead. When his beloved Mama unexpectedly becomes zombie-fied, it's up to poor Abe to put her out of her misery with his handy-dandy scythe. Betcha that's gonna leave some mental scarring. When we rejoin Abe (Bill Oberst Jr.) after the opening credits, he's now President of the United States, preparing to travel to Gettysburg to deliver his famed Address. Before he can board his carriage to take him there, however, he receives a report of a failed Union attack on a Confederate fort, and he's told that the lone survivor of the battle has begun to exhibit peculiar tendencies... like, for example, an urge to munch on human flesh. When Lincoln sees the "infected" man he immediately recognizes the problem and takes charge of the situation, assembling a squadron of 12 Secret Service agents to join him on a mission deep behind enemy lines to destroy the source of the Zombie outbreak.
Honest Abe... Action Hero!!
...so that's the setup, and Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies wastes little time before getting into the zombie action. Lincoln and his men are besieged by the Undead virtually from the moment they step off their train, and have to battle their way inside the nearly-deserted Confederate fort. Once inside the relative safety of the fortress they meet a handful of Confederate survivors, including General Stonewall Jackson (Don McGraw, in a hilarious fake beard), none of whom are exactly thrilled to see Abraham Lincoln in their midst. The Confederates think the zombies are merely "sick" people in need of medical treatment, and it takes some time for Abe to convince them that there's only one way to "cure" a zombie.
From there...well, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies follows this pattern: Lincoln and his men get attacked by Zombies, they kick Zombie ass, they get attacked by Zombies again, they kick more Zombie ass, repeat as necessary. When Abe makes his way to a nearby town in hopes of contacting help via telegraph, he encounters his former love Mary Owens hiding out in her cellar with some other survivors, including a pre-teen Teddy Roosevelt. Yes, that Teddy Roosevelt. (In an apparent effort to make high school history teachers palpitate with rage, Western cowboy legend Pat Garrett and future Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth also make appearances.) Abe pledges to get them out of there alive and brings everyone back to the fort, where General Jackson and his men have finally come around to Abe's way of thinking about how to deal with the Undead. Thus, the Union men and the Confederates put aside their differences and work together to set a final trap in hopes of putting an end to the Zombie threat. I will leave it up to the viewer to discover the final result for themselves, but I will add that the ending of the film provides some new insights into the so-called "conspiracy theories" behind Lincoln's eventual assassination.
So Is It Worth A Look?
Obviously, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies is a fairly ridiculous film, but despite the low-budget presentation and outlandish concept, I have to admit that I actually rather enjoyed it. As Asylum films go, this may be one of their better ones - it looks like the studio actually put some time and effort into it. Bill Oberst Jr. does a particularly nice job with his portrayal of Lincoln - rather than camp it up in the role, he portrays the sixteenth President as soft-spoken and dignified, yet still totally bad-ass. He may be troubled by the weight of his responsibilities and the stress of guiding the Nation through the Civil War, but he's still ready to open up a can of 19th Century Whoop-Ass when one is needed!
This is also one of the few Asylum films that doesn't feature "stunt casting" of any has-been television or film actors from days gone by, which actually works to the film's advantage. By using a cast of unknowns, "Abraham" won't garner much name recognition, but on the other hand, the audience might actually pay attention to the film itself rather than constantly pointing at the screen and saying "Hey, look! It's Greg Brady! How'd he end up in this thing?" I sincerely doubt that the costumes and set pieces are 100 percent historically accurate but hey, at least it looks like they tried. The film was shot in Savannah, Georgia, and as I understand it the production had some help from groups of local Civil War re-enactors to get the film's "look" right. As for the Zombies, there sure are a lot of'em but they're generic looking at best; the extent of the zombie "makeup" appears to be liberal amounts of pancake face powder and lots of fake blood. If you're expecting vivid, gory "Walking Dead" style details, look elsewhere.
In the end, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies provided more than a few chuckles and sometimes that's all you need to have a good time with a B-Movie. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may have done a fast fade from theaters and went quickly to DVD, but if you simply can't get enough of our sixteenth President as a slayer of supernatural beasts after seeing the "real" movie, then Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies is an entertaining option for an extra dose of tongue-in-cheek historical horror.
© 2012 Keith Abt