Archives for posts with tag: Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies

mischief-night-poster

Director Richard Schenkman, whose previous efforts range from Playboy documentaries to the abysmal Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, delivers a surprising winner with this tense home invasion shocker.

Mischief Night evokes immediate sympathy and concern for protagonist Emily (Noell Coet), a girl psychosomatically blinded after her mother died in a car accident. When Emily’s father (Daniel Hugh Kelly), with her encouragement, leaves her alone in the house on what happens to be her community’s annual Mischief Night – an occasion for spooky pranksterism – she finds herself at the mercy of a mysterious intruder (or is that intruders?) in a raincoat. The resulting film is a genuine tingler that raises the bar for blind girl terror, besting Wait Until Dark and Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out in terms of its sheer contagious fright.

The most frustrating aspect of Mischief Night is the muddiness of its moral universe – and, ultimately, its consequent meaninglessness. A fun but superfluous prologue that punishes two fornicators suggests that the Mischief Night killer or killers are disgruntled moralists or judgmental fire-and-brimstone vigilantes of the type represented in The Collection. Subsequent murders, however, lack this puritanical dimension, with victim selection failing to point to any unifying principle other than maximum terror. For most of the movie, the killers function as personifications or agents of a personal Hell for Emily, taking out of commission one by one the people and things that give her a sense of security – a theme that would have been strengthened if the screenwriters had excluded some of the extraneous deaths.

Flaws aside, Mischief Night is as scary as anything the viewer is likely to find at the Redbox, and is therefore happily recommended.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Mischief Night is:

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

7. Class-conscious. Wealth and a comfortable home afford no protection from reality or from the moral ramifications of sin.

6. Pro-castration. Emily’s father, somewhat reminiscent of Henry Winkler in wimpy Waterboy mode, is a model sensitive man.

5. Liberal. An old man (Richard Riehle) listening to a conservative talk radio program is dispatched almost as soon as he appears. This might be interpreted as an indication that the old conservative certainties of traditional values and Constitutional republicanism are dead or no longer a feasible defense of America; but more likely is that this is simply gratuitous spite directed at Limbaugh listeners.

4. Anti-slut. An adulteress (Erica Leerhsen) is terrorized during the opening sequence. Emily’s physical closeness with and trust of her boyfriend (Ian Bamberg) is a source of discomfort for the viewer.

3. Anti-gun. Emily’s father accidentally shoots her boyfriend, believing him to be an intruder.

2. Feminist. Emily’s disability has caused her to become highly self-reliant in ordinary circumstances. She proves more valiant than her father in the defense of their home and even asserts an imaginary phallus in the form of a chainsaw.

1. Pro-family. Emily is close with her father, and her disturbance after her mother’s death, a rupture of the family unit, has left her blind and, if not helpless, then at a significant disadvantage. The father, however, is rather girly and ineffectual, thus mitigating the movie’s pro-family credentials.

abraham-lincoln-vs-zombies

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”.

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