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STUDIO: The Asylum
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
- Making-of Featurette
- Gag Reel
It’s…Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies. Was there more that you needed?
Directed by Richard Schenkman. Written by Richard Schenkman, Karl T. Hirsch and J. Lauren Proctor. Acted by Bill Oberst Jr., Baby Norman, Jason Vail, Jason Hughley, Don McGraw, Christopher Marrone and Ronald Ogden.
Abraham Lincoln (Oberst Jr.), is in the process of writing the Gettysburg Address when he receives word of a slight outbreak of zombies in a fort in Savannah, deep across enemy lines. Since he saw his parents succumb to the undeadening, he knows that zombies are bad news and that he needs to head over there and destroy some brains. Along with a few historical figures like young Teddy Roosevelt and mustachioed Pat Garrett (plus a shload of redshirts), Lincoln must fight zombies, Confederate soldiers and enemies embedded within his own garrison. Is it a garrison? I’m not sure. Embedded within his group of dudes. Will he survive the siege? Can he succeed in bringing peace to the nation? Will he look awesome walking in slow motion against the setting sun while swinging his scythe majestically? All signs point to I think so. I haven’t read that book.
I’m a sucker for this kind of shit. I love genre mash-ups and I love how wonderfully horrible the films of The Asylum are. Last week I watched Brooke Hogan and Jerry O’Connell’s weird brother fight a giant two-headed shark in 2-Headed Shark Attack and laughed so hard I blew Cheeto dust into my own eyes. I wouldn’t change a thing. When Transformers was about to hit theaters and The Asylum released Transmorphers a few weeks prior, did I rent it? No, but I made a rich friend do it and we enjoyed one of the best nights I’ve ever experienced (my life is a road map of pain). Because of that magical night of wonder and shame, I’ve since then partook (partaken?) in Titanic 2 (they got a bigger boat!), Snakes on a Train (they’re hiding in the biting compartment), Princess of Mars (Antonio Sabato Jr., y’all) and many more. I even reviewed Mega Python vs. Gateroid for CHUD awhile back and I was surprised by how much it didn’t make me kill myself. All of this is to say that my expectations were exactly where they needed to be for Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies and, because of that, it wasn’t the unpleasant fisting I expected. It was more of a light pressure in the small of your back while your uncle massages your shoulders.
The biggest problem with Asylum movies and the reason why I don’t think they get the respect they (kinda-sorta) deserve is that, while it is impressive how low budget the films are and how large the scale sometimes is, they never hire filmmakers who bring true style to the movies. I know The Asylum is working on $100-$150,000 dollar budgets, but it doesn’t cost a dime to have vision. If I’m remembering correctly, the only Asylum film I’ve ever seen where the budget didn’t stand in the way of the filmmakers imagination was King of the Ants, and that’s only because Stuart Gordon directed it. I’m sure the director of Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, Richard Schenkman, was constantly being neutered by budget and schedule, but that’s no excuse for some of the scenes in this movie. The opening sequence of random settlers running from zombies is so poorly lit and staged that I was afraid this was going to be the worst Asylum movie I’d seen yet (Paranormal Entity has held the title for a while). But Abe V. ZomZom’s had two secret weapons up its threadbare sleeve I wasn’t prepared for.
First, Bill Oberst Jr. is damned excellent as Abraham Lincoln. His Lincoln manages to be so many different things at once, without ever becoming inconsistent. He’s soft spoken, noble and a man of peace, just wanting everyone to chill out and shake hands. On the other hand, fuck zombies. They should all die and he’s going to kill as many of those bastards as he can without having to explain to idiots why they’re not just ill. Seriously, the entire film sees Lincoln explaining to people over and over again that zombies are dead, not sick, and that he’s not just murdering folks because he doesn’t have the time to invent Penicillin. It hits a point where you just want Lincoln to start backhanding all the people he has to explain the same shit to more than once. It’s a credit to Oberst that he always sells the man’s patience and grace under pressure without making him seem too good to be true. He is a flawed man and Oberst always makes sure you see the wheels turning behind his soulful eyes, while also having legit action hero swagger. It is a much better performance than expected in an Asylum production and the best I think I’ve seen in one of their films yet.
The other secret weapon I wasn’t prepared for was the ending. Nine times out of ten, Asylum movies end with whatever (whether it be a Crocktopus, Octophibian, Komodo Sharkosaurus, Ducktopus or Gary Busey) the heroes are battling exploding into a CGI ball of flame, while the heroes escape, then rejoice, in slow motion. That totally happens here, but the film then continues for ten more minutes and has a nice little twist I didn’t see coming and then ends with a genuine, quiet character moment that left me actually feeling something good for the movie. It also gives Oberst Jr.’s Lincoln a much more bittersweet and touching send-off than I ever would have expected in an Asylum movie. Well done, last 5 minutes.
Those good things don’t cancel out the bad, however. Aside from two or three well framed, iconic shots of Lincoln, the film is so flatly shot and poorly edited that it’s hard to know what’s going on during the action sequences. There’s no sense of spatial geography to the fort they’re holed up in, which kills any tension the film might have built up when characters are actually escaping the zombies. As it stands, a character runs from a pack of zombies and then he’s somewhere else, but we don’t know where because we can’t fucking see anything.
Aside from Lincoln, there’s not too many other characters to root for, although I did highly enjoy the performance of Ronald Ogden as Robert Chamberlain, a ridiculously badass character who just absolutely refuses to be a redshirt. He looks death in the face and giggles at how much lamer it is than him and Ogden sells every second of it. I was also rooting for Stonewall Jackson’s beard, because that fucking thing was either an old beaver strapped to the face of the actor or Sarah Silverman’s back hair made into some sort of face sweater. Either way, in some shots you can see the spirit gum shining in the sunlight like the stains on your favorite pair of strip club pants.
To pick apart this movie is too easy to be fair. The only question you can really ask when watching an Asylum flick is whether you had fun with it and I did to an extent. I’m the kind of person who giggles at shit like Abraham Lincoln swinging a scythe at a zombie’s head while yelling “EMANCIPATE THIS!”. Like I said, I’m a sucker for that kind of shit and I won’t apologize for it. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure for me, there is only pleasure and, while this film never brought me all the way, it didn’t leave me with cinematic blue balls, either.
The film looks fantastic. The transfer is crystal clear and the surround sound rocked my speakers. I almost thought I was watching a Blu-Ray at some points which, in a way, is sort of a detriment to the film. I think it would play a lot better as some movie you found on an old VHS tape filled with episodes of Silk Stockings and Red Shoe Diaries. The making-of featurette and the gag reel are extremely short, but filled with some great footage of actors, grips and directors having a damn good time making a bad civil war zombie movie.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars