As little excuse as the execrable Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had to exist, the coattail-clawing clunker cash-in Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies has even less – and it knows it. Dimly lensed, indifferently scripted, and uninterestingly cast, this tale of a covert mission behind enemy lines to halt a Confederate zombie plague is itself no livelier than a lumbering, moaning member of the living dead.
Stifling any potential from the beginning is the film’s confused sense of its own identity. With a ridiculous rip-off premise begging for high camp comedy treatment, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies opts instead to play its material straight, offering only the driest and crumbliest crumbs of attempted humor and usually preferring to bore the viewer with Spielbergian solemnity and sentimentality: “Be brave, Abe. You’re resolute. You know what must be done.” The titular zombies, laggards all, provide paltry suspense as America’s worst commander-in-chief (Bill Oberst Jr.) again rises to the superheroic occasion by shooting and slicing through the evil hordes with his trusty populist scythe – or is it a commie sickle? (Like a good Jacobin, Lincoln prefers to behead the unenlightened.)
Had it been made in 1990, starred Leslie Nielsen, and laughed at itself with a go-for-broke gonzo parody approach, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies might at least have had the potential, like Nielsen’s Repossessed, to become in retrospect a cheesy and groan-inducing but ultimately pleasing artifact of lame comedy nostalgia. As is, however, the film offers next to nothing to make it worth the viewer’s while. “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here,” Lincoln says as part of his Gettysburg Address – and no more fitting tribute could possibly be paid to Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, a wholly superfluous, tedious, and forgettable offense on film.
A star and a half. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies is:
7. Family-ambivalent. “I’d rather start a family and ride horses,” Pat Garrett (yes, the Pat Garrett, played by Christopher Marrone) says when Lincoln suggets he enter politics or law enforcement. “An appealing path, to be sure,” Lincoln concurs. It should also be noted, however, that the president’s superhero origin prologue depicts him executing his own zombified mother. (Cf. Warm Bodies no. 6)
6. Class-conscious. “What would the cream of Washington society make of you, my dear?” John Wilkes Booth (Jason Vail) muses judgmentally, contemplating a whore as she sleeps.
5. Feminist/pro-slut. A poor, oppressed prostitute excuses her whoredom by complaining that the oldest profession is the only work available to unmarried women in her area. Old unprogressive fogey Stonewall Jackson (Don McGraw) objects to the presence of a “fallen woman”.
4. Bi-partisan. General Jackson redeems himself by joining forces with Lincoln and, like Dr. King in Django Unchained, playing the sacrificial honky. “We are all Americans.” All of the biologically and morally unsalvageable corpses, however, must be exterminated.
3. Anti-white. Mary Owens (Baby Norman) hints at the symbolic significance of the plague when, describing her own zombification experience, she says, “It’s like a fog is descending . . .”
2. Statist. Lincoln avuncularly passes the torch to future fellow office-abuser Teddy Roosevelt (Canon Kuipers), who gets to perch on the Great Emancipator’s shoulders to aim his rifle over a wall and pick off zombies.
1. Anti-racist/anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn on both counts). “I’m not your boy,” token black character Wilson Brown (Jason Hughley) sasses when someone good-naturedly calls him “m’boy”.