September is an exciting time in Zombie Movie Land because October is the big anniversary, which means September completes a full year and it’s time for the annual Golden Zombey Movie Awards. That is a lot of fun and makes all the movie watching seem less like a waste of time. But first things first…
We did not have high expectations going into Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies. You know what, actually, we hardly ever have high expectations for anything so I should really stop bothering to say that. Anyway, right off the bat I was relieved that this wasn’t a camcorder movie shot in someone’s backyard. Its style is more of the direct-to-video knockoff designed to trick (dumb) people. Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies is to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as Snakes on a Train is to Snakes on a Plane. Honest Abe in this film is played by Bill Oberst Jr., whose credits on imdb include 18 things in the year 2012. Obviously, the go-to man for the Crankin’ Out the Knockoffs factory. It’s a good choice, though, because he does a pretty solid job throughout, even bringing some pathos to Abe’s relationship with Mary Owens…and I can’t believe I just typed that.
See, this movie is not just an hour and a half of wacky president killing zombie action. It is an ambitious reimagining of American history. Lincoln, who as a boy was forced to murder his own zombified parents, finds himself uniquely suited to lead the charge when the zombie disease appears to have reemerged again soon after the battle at Gettysburg. So Lincoln delays his famous address in order to lead a covert team into enemy territory and put a stop to the outbreak. Once there, he is reunited with Mary Owens, runs into a perhaps justifiably antagonistic Stonewall Jackson, and mentors a young Teddy Roosevelt in the art of carrying a big stick and emancipating zombie heads from their torsos. Even John Wilkes Boothe is along for the ride as the customary asshole member of the team.
Surprisingly, there is not a lot that doesn’t work. The acting is acceptable, the make-up is decent enough and the effects are mostly the computer-generated blood splatter kind that you can’t really complain about compared to other movies with budgets of zero. We liked this movie much more than we thought we would and even learned some things…such as the dark truth behind the president’s assassination. They leave a lot out of the history books. Grade: A-
“Emancipate this!” (actual dialogue)
The second film of the evening was our first entry from Brazil: Porto Dos Mortos (Beyond the Grave). This is the story of one truly dedicated cop, known in the film only as “The Officer”, but known to me as “Brazilian Mark Ruffalo.” Our hero is not deterred by the zombie apocalypse in his quest to bring a serial killer to justice. Unfortunately for him and his dedication, the killer is actually The Dark Rider, a supernatural force that can take possession of the nearest body as soon as it is killed.
It’s a unique premise and a pretty tense thriller, but if I’m judging it as a zombie movie, it falls a bit short. This is one of those films that takes place during the zombie apocalypse but is not really about the zombie apocalypse. The undead are an afterthought, used only to track the Dark Rider (as they seem to follow him around), and do not pose much of a threat. They generally don’t attack and score only one kill. The other problem is that the narrative gets a little confusing. I don’t know if it’s that some things get lost in translation or if you’re really not supposed to know what’s going on, but I got kind of lost at the end there. It’s not a bad movie, but I feel like I could watch it 5 more times and still not totally get it. Might be more of a ME problem than a movie problem. Grade: B-