ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS. ZOMBIES
The Asylums films have always been intended as quickie copycats of their A-budget counterparts and are cheaply and indifferently tossed off with the sole intent of making a quick buck. In this case, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies has been intended as a copy of Timur Bekmambetovs Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012). The surprise about watching Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies and expecting the usual low-grade Asylum film is that you actually get a film that is far more modest and superior in what it tries to do than Bekmambetovs overblown turkey ended up being.
Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies comes from Richard Schenkman, one of the few Asylum directors to have had a name outside the company. Schenkmans career has been all over the place, directing works as varied as Playboy specials, Angel 4: Undercover (1994), the action film October 22nd (1998), tv fluff like A Divas Christmas Carol (2000) and several independent films that have not had any high-profile with the likes of The Pompatus of Love (1995), Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God ... Be Back by Five (1998) and And Then Came Love (2007), as well as the subsequent horror film Mischief Night (2014). The film on Schenkmans cv that obtained the highest acclaim was The Man from Earth (2007) wherein an immortal man tells his life story, which was based an old Jerome Bixby script and gained a good deal of word of mouth appeal. Most recently, Schenkman has taken to writing scripts for other Asylum films with the likes of 100o Below 0 (2013) and Zombie Night (2013).
In writing his original novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2009), Seth Grahame-Smith played a game wherein he closely followed Lincolns biographical details but wrapped an entire secret history Lincolns adventures eliminating vampires around them. When it came to the film version, Timur Bekmambetov failed to get or seemed disinterested in any of this. I would argue that Richard Schenkman adheres closer to Grahame-Smiths idea than Bekmambetov did. Schenkmans script plays the game of historical crossover that Grahame-Smith did, he having Lincoln meet and come up against other real-life characters such as Confederate general Stonewall Jackson, Pat Garrett (later the killer of Billy the Kid) and a young Teddy Roosevelt. The film gets bonus points for writing in Mary Owens, an obscure character unless you read up on Lincolns biography she being the woman that Lincoln was briefly engaged to only to abruptly call things off (which shows that Schenkman really has been doing his historical reading), as well as an end twist that manages to ingeniously wind in the John Wilkes Booth assassination.
Bill Oberst, Jr. plays Abraham Lincoln far better than Benjamin Walkers indifferent performance in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. He gives us a Lincoln filled with gravitas, empathy and Lincolns fabled sagacity, the sort that you imagine the real Lincoln would have conveyed, while the dialogue comes nicely written (if perhaps Schenkman spends too much time turning this Lincoln into a dispenser of pithy wisdom). It is still nothing on Daniel Day-Lewiss exceptional portrait in the Steven Spielberg Lincoln (2012) later that year but far more than you expect. For its low-budget, the film has done some reasonable historical recreation and especially research to at least give a flavour of authenticity to proceedings. Where the lack of budget does show through is in the zombie attacks, which only end up looking cheap, not to mention are relatively tame as the zombie genre goes.