Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. In this special Election Day column and in celebration of LINCOLN coming to theaters this weekend, I take a look at three horrors of the presidential kind available on DVD/BluRay right now! So first and foremost, no matter what party you lean towards, get out there and vote!
Then scroll down and get ready to Hail to the Chief with three films worth watching in the Oval Office and at home!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES (2012)
FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! (2012)
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012)
And finally…Patrick Rea’s SPLIT THE CHECK!
Available on DVD from the Asylum!!
ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES (2012)Directed by Richard Schenkman
Written by Richard Schenkman, Karl Hirsch & Lauren Proctor.Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Jason Vail, Baby Norman, Don McGraw
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I know that it is well documented that our 16th President fought vampires in his youth, but did you know that he was proficient in the gentle art of zombie killing as well?
Well, you learn new things here at AICN HORROR every week and this week we get a bit of revisionist history as The Asylum releases ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES. Now, in recent weeks there have been some hubbub in the talkbacks about my coverage of films that may not be blockbusters here in this weekly column. To that, I respond, “NO SHIT!”. But as I’ve explained before, not all films can be THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Sometimes a whole film can be redeemed by a cool idea, a small moment of film, or an inspired performance. Now, ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES was made on a fraction of the budget of the Tim Burton produced, Timur Bekmambetov directed, Seth Grahame-Smith penned 3D blockbuster, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an enjoyable film experience.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES knows it’s goofy and relishes in that fact. While the concept of Honest Abe using a steel scythe to decapitate the dead while spouting some of his most famous quotes is something those with an ounce of humor can chortle about, there will be those who roll their eyes at this film. But if you find yourself accepting the fact that you want to see a film where Abe kills vamps, yet dismiss this one, there’s something wrong with you. Sure, it can be seen as a knock off. But I found this film to be pretty enjoyable throughout as it adhered to some of the major milestones in Abe’s life, and veered only to fit in zombies into the mix. Some of the twists that are found in the film (the final one I don’t want to spoil here) are inspired and cast a new kind of light on the way we look at American history. The fact that John Wilkes Booth fought as part of Abe’s Secret Service Men and the inclusion of a young Teddy Roosevelt, a stubborn General Stonewall Jackson, and a noble Pat Garrett as part of his team were fun little Easter eggs that popped up from time to time here.
What makes the tone of this film work is the fantastic performance by Bill Oberst, Jr. as Abe Lincoln. While ABE VS VAMPS cast a young bo-hunk in the role, Oberst looks much more like the President. Oberst exudes a gentlemanly charm, showing consideration and an even keel, even in the heat of zombie battle. If anything, Oberst is honoring the President as a noble hero, someone to look up to, and he pulls it off marvelously. I wish the rest of the cast had that level of acting caliber, but sadly, they don’t. The most distracting thing about this film is the fact that the cast just doesn’t seem to have the chops to pull off this expansive epic style of film. Oberst, though, is swinging for the fences and makes it almost feasible that this is what Abe would do if zombies roamed the post-Civil War America.
The budget here is low. The zombie makeup isn’t bad, but green screen effects and computerized blood splatter are pretty evident throughout and somewhat distracting. I understand how much cheaper it is to go the CGI route, but when it’s as evident as this, it serves more as a distraction than a way to titillate the gore hound in me. Still, director Richard Schenkman is smart about using only one or two locales and relying on stock footage to fill in the gaps to make this film look bigger than it is. Though Schenkman’s camera occasionally lingers too long and edits choppily, working within the budget, the look of the film isn’t bad.
I don’t want to apologize for this film or ignore the rough edges here. It’s low budget and apart from Oberst, a lot of acting coaches could get a lot of work out of this film’s cast. But apart from that, I couldn’t help but titter every time Abe switches open his scythe and decapitates a zombie. Call me easy to please, but I found ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS ZOMBIES to be a hokey fun time.
Available on DVD!
FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! (2012)Directed by Garrett Brawith
Written by Ross Patterson
Starring Barry Bostwick, Lin Shaye, Bruce McGill, Ray Wise Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Abraham Lincoln apparently wasn’t the only president to tangle with the unknown. Oh no. Seems the most important job in America has always had monster fighting as one of their responsibilities. Just as the 60’s BATMAN television series compliments Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT as its goofy inbred cousin one can’t help but love, FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! does the same for the upcoming LINCOLN film with Daniel Day Lewis.
Undeniably camp, I couldn’t help but fall in utter and complete love with this film. From the goofy villains to the hokey tech and bravado, every frame of this film made me laugh until stuff jiggled. The flavor of comedy is wholeheartedly committed to being just goddamn wrong from start to finish. From FDR’s constant reminder that he has “tiny little polio legs” to Jimmy Carter’s uncle Buford offering up his wife for sex whenever he gets the chance, FDR: AMERICAN BADASS is sure to offend someone, but if you have the right sense of humor you will find a giggle or three at every turn this story takes.
On a routine hunting trip with his friends, a pre-Presidential FDR happens upon a werewolf. Adding a bit of their own twist to the lycan mythology, it’s a little known fact that a werewolf bite causes “the polio”. While crippling his body, the werewolf bite motivates FDR to seek the highest responsibility in the country. But as FDR ascends to the White House, evil forces are plotting as Werewolf Hitler, Werewolf Mussolini, and Werewolf Hirohito three-way call one another to spread the werewolf curse across the globe. Of course, FDR is not going to take this sitting down…I mean, he’s not going to stand for this…I mean…dammit. He decides to take the fight to the werewolves and win WWII.
Barry Bostwick plays FDR and does so with more energy than I’d have given the guy credit for. Every joke, every scene, every moment Bostwick is vibrant and has enough grit to kick all of the Expendables’ asses at any given moment. His comedic timing here is fantastic and makes me wish the ROCKY HORROR alum would be in more films. Remember how funny Leslie Nielsen was in AIRPLANE! and the first NAKED GUN (not the sequels)? Bostwick has that energy here, playing it straight throughout and never blinking at the over the top shit going on all around him.
The film is filled with other actors who give it their all, from Lin Shaye (THERE’SOEMTHING ABOUT MARY) whose portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt is hilariously tragic as she is disgusted by FDR’s tiny little polio legs to Bruce McGill’s performance as Louis, FDR’s earnest right hand man. Ray Wise plays Douglas Macarthur, while Ross Petterson gives an inspired comedic performance as the awkward and dense Cleavon Buford (Jimmy Carter’s uncle). Perhaps the most inspired casting is Kevin Sorbo as Abe Lincoln, who FDR has an otherworldly conversation with while high. And the trio of character actors playing Hitler (Jesse Merlin), Mussolini (Paul Ben-Victor), and Hirohito (Jameson Yang) provide quite a bit of laughs as well.
Filled with wacky weaponry, raunchy dialog (FDR is more concerned about his penis working than his tiny little polio legs), and campy effects such as a twirling Presidential symbol between scenes, FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! is goofy fun. Occasionally when FDR and his elderly cronies speak Ebonics to one another, it does cause a groan or two, but for the most part, the humor hits its mark most of the time. It’s pretty gory as well, as the werewolves rip open chests, throw hearts, and explode with huge squibs when fired upon by FDR’s souped up wheelchair. About a third of the way through the film, as with many films which rely on one joke after another, some semblance of plot has to be resolved. This usually causes a lull in the laughs and the lull is present here as well, though less problematic.
The film is most like the first AIRPLANE! film mixed with a little of TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE, so if you loved those films, you’re the right candidate to get in line for this one. Go in expecting a raunchy and goofy time, and you’re definitely going to get it from FDR: AMERICAN BADASS!
New on DVD!
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012)Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith
Starring Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joseph Mawle, Jimmi Simpson
Find out more about these films here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I missed this revisionist historical take on one of our greatest presidents when it hit theaters. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER seemed to come and go at the box office what with super hero films dominating the blockbuster season this year. Some may accuse the R rating for the poor box office performance and why less people flocked to see Honest Abe twirl his axe like a lumberjack Jet Li, but I think it also had something to do with the performances and the audience’s willingness to suspend their belief in a pretty insane concept.
The setting was all there for an entertaining flick. I’d marveled at Timur Bekmambetov’s DAYWATCH and NIGHTWATCH films, loving his imaginative and kinetic style of storytelling, utilizing all sorts of creative shots and effects. The same effects are here and some of them are quite thrilling. I especially liked the sequence where Abe and a vampire battle it out in the middle of a wild stallion (not Wyld Stallynz, dude) stampede. As Abe and the vamp leap from one horse to the next, all forms of reality are thrown out the window in terms of gravity and probability that a powerless man would be able to do such feats of agility. And though a high suspension of disbelief is required to get into the film, this scene is one of those so ridiculous it’s awesome for some, so ridiculous it’s stupid to others.
Call me part of the minority, because I found it pretty fun to see Lincoln twirl his axe about like a baton and slice the heads off of vampires. I know it’s too far out a concept for many to stomach, but I like that kind of lunacy. I think, though, the reason this film was not a hit with audiences is that the presidency is something many feel still holds some kind of esteem and to inject fantasy into the title of the most important man in America is just shy of blasphemy. Personally, I feel the rank has become nothing more than a figurehead position with all candidates looking and more importantly sounding the same on the campaign trail and proving themselves full of hot air once they take to office. Though I do vote and keep up with the news, I feel less and less a part of it these days and more importantly hold the title of President with less import as I once did. So a story taking the man who would be one of our most beloved Presidents and basically recasting him as a kung fu Van Helsing didn’t really offend me, but I could see where some would be put off by it.
I think in the end, the reason why I wasn’t completely sold in this film or compelled to check it out in theaters was because actor Benjamin Walker, while most likely an all around swell guy, just doesn’t seem to have that much charisma. With his Liam Neeson-esque cold dead eyes, I had trouble getting into the character or giving a shit about his personal turmoil as the survivor of a vampire attack as a child. Without a lead you can latch onto, more often than not, the film comes out suffering and that’s what felt like the final nail in the coffin for this one, for me at least.
In the end, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER was the epitome of a popcorn flick that you go to and quickly forget about not long after leaving the theater or in this case, press stop on the BluRay. As thrilling as some of the over-CGI-ed action scenes were, I just didn’t feel connected to the character and though the way Seth Grahame-Smith made it all fit into historical events, I just couldn’t find myself getting into it, despite fun performances by Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper. If you’re looking for brainless fun, this one is it. Not because it isn’t a smartly done script, but because the overall presentation just kind of falls flat despite all of the effects.
Maybe ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER will find its audience on DVD/BluRay…Lincoln never did do well in theaters…
And finally…those undecided up to this point may feel split on who to vote for this year, but it’s unanimous that Patrick Rea’s SPLIT THE CHECK is a damn fine horror short…
See what I did there with the tie-in to the election?
Ohhh, just enjoy the damn short film…
See ya Friday with our regular AICN HORROR column, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
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