Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mockbusted #2: Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies

As you may have read, I was not the biggest fan of this year's insulting bit of supernatural historical revisionism Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. My problems with the film were many, from the one joke premise not sustaining a whole movie, to the dull action scenes, pointless alterations to monster lore, and perhaps most egregious, the unapologetic flippancy with which it dealt with the complicated political and moral consequences of the Civil War. Much like Age of the Hobbits, this Asylum version, while by no means a great movie, surpasses the film upon which it is based in pretty much every way except budget and production polish. Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies improves upon every deficiency I felt marred the more mainstream effort, making for a mostly enjoyable if somewhat dragging 90 minutes.

The one joke is the same, former president becomes bad ass monster hunter, but it works much better here, and does so in a way that illustrates just why it didn't in the other film. So much time was spent in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter showing a younger Lincoln growing into his role, only becoming a kick ass President in the last half, and while that might seem like what you would want for a complete narrative arc, it ill-served a movie that really needed to get on with showing the one thing we wanted to see. The back story in Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies is done in the first five minute prologue, and then boom, he's president, and we just accept that he is the world's leading expert on killing zombies. It gives just enough of a set up so that the whole story is what's on the tin, punctuated by out of context Lincoln quotes applied to zombie hunting, up to and including "Emancipate This!" As it should be.

Instead of just being the arbitrary supernatural bad guy to make our hero look more awesome, the zombies in this film are actually integral not only to the concept, but to a surprisingly rich thematic consistency. The zombie plague is all at once a metaphor individually for the institution of slavery and the Southern way of life, that which should be dead and yet lives on, and collectively for the great equalizer, uniting Union and Confederate in death and knowing no allegiance but hunger for flesh. That's not just some crazy shit I came up with from over analyzing it, those are actual parallels made in the movie. That theme of unity is played out fairly well throughout, with the Confederate soldiers often coming off as more noble than Lincoln's men, seeing their fallen comrades as sick and in need of a cure, not monsters that need to be put down. By contrast, the Northerners run the gamut from honorable to cowardly, which was a refreshing twist that I wasn't expecting.

There are flaws, naturally. Apart from the novelty of the Civil War setting, the zombie movie tropes are fairly routine, though at least competently applied, and I wanted to see more humor derived from the unique juxtaposition inherent in the premise (a problem I had with the original film as well). Then there's the ending, which I don't want to spoil, but suffice it to say is a zombified twist on the assassination at Ford's Theater that literally left me shocked that they would go that balls out silly with it. Still, the high points far outweigh the low points, including a collapsible scythe that is easily ten times more awesome than a silver tipped axe, and the out of nowhere appearance of a juvenile Teddy Roosevelt, given his first big stick as a weapon and told to walk softly with it to avoid being caught by the undead horde.

Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies is available on Netflix streaming, and if anything I've said here appeals to you at all, it should be a pretty safe bet for a fun night. It's not the greatest movie of the year, but its the greatest movie of the year featuring a former president fighting an army of supernatural monsters that isn't FDR: American Badass. Give it a chance, if you can.

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