People who are familiar with B-horror movies are used to the Bruce Campbell-esque one-liners and over-the-top antics of film directors.
While “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies” certainly has its moments, the film does develop into a solid mockbuster with numerous beheadings and a few quality performances.
Making its second premiere at the Averitt Center for the Arts — the first being in Savannah – “Lincoln vs. Zombies” played to a house full of locals, cast and crew members — and zombies.
Tim Chapman, the executive director of the Averitt Center, worked with local actor Jason Vail, who starred as Secret Service agent John Wilkinson (later revealed to be Southern spy John Wilkes Booth), to bring the film to the Averitt to showcase local actors and give the movie a place to be seen on the big screen.
“The great thing about this movie is that it was filmed in Savannah and there are a lot of people from this area that are in the film as extras, and we wanted to make sure we gave them the attention they deserve because they got to be in a movie,” Chapman said.
The film is set as President Lincoln labors over the Gettysburg Address; however, he soon learns of a growing danger at Fort Pulaski. With a band of Secret Service men, Lincoln journeys behind enemy lines to face a foe from his past, one far more terrifying than any Confederate army.
“As much as Asylum puts out films that are tongue-and-cheek, a wink-wink, nod-nod … I think this film stepped it up and didn’t go full camp. It did take itself a little serious, and I think if you watch Bill Oberst’s performance, as Abraham Lincoln, you will be amazed. His performance is so dead-on,” Vail said.
Produced by The Asylum, a company that has released movies such as “American Warships” and “Battle Los Angeles,” the movie takes its stab at the upcoming summer blockbuster “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” but follows its own, slightly original storyline. With an estimated budget of $150,000 (roughly 10 percent of that of “Vampire Hunter”), “Zombies” was shot in Savannah in 17 days.
“It was a challenge all the way through. From day 1 to day 17, it was a challenge. Without a lot of budget, you are limited to your creativity and how well you are organized. It was pretty insane,” Vail said.
Wasting no time to get to the point, the movie opens with a young version of the 16th president slaying his zombified mother with a scythe. Fast-forward to a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg: Lincoln realizes he must stop a greater evil, that of the Confederate Undead. Once they arrive at Fort Pulaski they run into numerous historical figures such as Stonewall Jackson, a 10-year-old Teddy Roosevelt and Pat Garrett. “Zombies” relies on old-fashioned bloody humor and suspense, throwing the audience a historical reference or two and borrowing from classic works of literature.
“I mean there is some fun -- and some campiness -- but other than some historical references, it does take itself seriously, and I think audiences will appreciate that because it’s not just another cliché horror film,” Vail said.
These are not typical zombies, as much of the time, they stand still in a sort of trance-like state until someone rouses their attention with a gunshot. It is the kind of film that asks the audience to sit back, relax and not ask too many questions.
At times, it takes a little too seriously, considering the film is about Lincoln decapitating the undead. At others, it gives the audience a quality laugh with lines such as “Emancipate this.” The movie is exactly what is to be expected for a low budget movie: over-the-top and campy at times then downright bloody fun.
The film comes full circle, encapsulating Lincoln’s demise at the hands of Booth, with a clever plot twist. With a body count lost somewhere in the hundreds, this mockbuster played up to the Averitt crowd and was met with a warm response.
After the credits, a question-and-answer session was held with some of the cast members such as Vail, followed by an after-party at Manny’s Bar and Grille.
There is not yet word of a sequel, but the film may garner a spot on Syfy near the opening of the blockbuster to come.