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Categories: Movie Reviews

Guest writer Cameron Johnson reviews Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012) and explains why it is Presidential garbage.

If any film company were to serve as the definition of Trash cinema, that company would be The Asylum. The Burbank-based studio has made a name for itself recently by releasing a plethora of so-called “mockbusters”, low-budget parodies which shamelessly cash in on Hollywood blockbusters with ridiculous plot changes (Snakes on a Train), horrendous effects and laughable dialogue.

Often The Asylum gets things right, especially when they try to be as original as possible. Sharknado, for instance, is a modern B-Movie classic. Most of the time, however, the films fall flat on their faces, not even saved by the “so bad it’s good” principle of Trash cinema. Such is the case with the dismal Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (dir. Richard Schenkman), available for streaming on Netflix.

What could have been a humorous parody of a humorous parody of history (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which I have yet to see as a film but loved as a book) instead turns out to be a conflicted mess, a house divided against itself.

The film starts with Abraham Lincoln as a child (Brennen Harper) defending himself against his zombified parents, eventually killing them in cold blood to become the ruthless zombie slayer we see later in the film. After this opening scene, we’re introduced to an older Lincoln (Bill Oberst Jr., the only really experienced actor on show here), trying to keep his army on top in the middle of the Civil War.

Abe1

Soon enough the zombies are back, having invaded a Confederate fort that the Union was sieging, and, quite ridiculously, Lincoln instantly decides that he’s the man to go to this fort and take down the infected civilians that are causing problems for both sides. Bringing a small team of Union soldiers to stakeout the fort and surrounding area for the root of the zombie problem (one that somehow has not again cropped up in the last forty years of Lincoln’s life, since everyone acts surprised), Lincoln begins a zombie-killing quest less interesting than, I expect, what the life of a zombie must be like.

Now let’s talk about the zombies on display here. Bypassing the cheap make-up and awful green screen effects, what is their motive? Yes, they all seem to be biting people to spread on the infection, but why are some zombies way faster and more rabid than others while some watch in disinterest as our heroes simply walk by? Not to mention, why is it that some people are infected almost instantly with the affliction after being bitten, while it takes some, including Lincoln’s love interest (no, not his wife), weeks to fall under the spell? There is no consistency to the zombies at all, making them seem a pointless afterthought or gimmick in a movie that has much more interesting subplots.

Speaking of subplots, there are some pretty good ones.

The character of John Wilkes Booth (Jason Vail) appears as a “Union spy” and “helps” Lincoln defeat the zombies, trying to kill him discretely along the way. This subplot is often very hilarious because it is good rather than it is laughably bad. Unfortunately, the whole thing is ruined when Booth shamelessly recites Hamlet dialogue when deciding not to kill Lincoln during prayer. The music, even, is mostly taken from the public domain, though it’s at least Civil War stuff.

There’s also passable subplots involving Stonewall Jackson (Don McGraw in a beard I could get at Party City), a young Theodore Roosevelt (who Lincoln trains to shoot zombies while sitting on his shoulders), and a Confederate soldier (once again with awfully fake facial hair) who decides his side might not be the most moral to be on.

Really, though, Oberst Jr.’s performance is Lincoln is the only really good thing on show here.

He takes Lincoln seriously, providing bravado and gravitas to film that everywhere else doesn’t know whether to take itself seriously or not. Of course, that’s perhaps the point for films of this sort, but it just doesn’t work here.

With few jokes good enough to make this abysmal parody worthwhile, I can’t really recommend Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies. If you’re looking for some silly Asylum fun, stick to Sharknado or any of the MegaShark films. Those films stay away from being boring by taking themselves a little less seriously.

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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