For fifteen years, Asylum Studios has been making silly low budget fare. Aside from making redundant, terrible films about giant animals figting each other, such as Mega Shark Vs. Crocosaurus, they've become known for their "mockbusters." That is to say, rip-offs of approaching Hollywood releases. These include Terminators and Transmorphers. That is to say, their business model relies on confused and uninformed people selecting the wrong movie at the video store.
Later this year, we're going to see no less than two major releases based on Abraham Lincoln. One of them is Steven Spielberg's Lincoln featuring Daniel Day Lewis as the President.
The other film seeing a major release is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, based on the novel of the same name. Although treated with the utmost seriousness, there's a sort of irony that one is supposed to appreciate in order to be intrigued by this premise. If not that, then at least the presence of vampires. To be honest, I'm pretty well disinterested in the vampire schtick. Despite the amusement most folks are already getting out of the title alone, I've had a recent tendency to expect little from the big studios, who seem to churn out boring, humorless, poorly executed if not conceived drek.
Asylum then announced its latest "tie-in," Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies. This DID intrigue me, if only for the zombies purposefully (and wisely) swapped in for the blood-drinkers. With expectations lowered, I rented the film upon its 5/29 released and gave it a shot.
To review an Asylum feature is something of a paradox. How much time and thought should one spend on a rushed cash-in? In the case of LVZ (like that?), I think Asylum has finally upped the ante. However, this presents an unusual dilemma.
Asylum films have a number of very distinct problems. These include terrible scripts, tragic CGI, shots reused over and over again, bad acting, and wonky editing. Every film in their catalog is subject to these flaws, and it sometimes results in a movie that's so terrible it's almost great. The pinnacle of this underachieving is Mega Pirhana, which is really an unintentional comedy rather than the action film it's trying to be.
What happens when they finally turn out a film that avoids these issues (for the most part). It, for better or worse, now has to be held to a higher standard. On the positive side, LVZ offers some amusing character moments and the kind of rewarding violence you'd expect from a film with this title. The humor here completely hits the mark. While the actor playing Lincoln sometimes comes across more as a man doing an impression of George W. Bush doing an impression of Abraham Lincoln, his commitment and the overall acting from the cast would have supported stronger material.
What truly impresses me about the film is that, for the first time, we get a few clever shots from the Asylum. This includes the final frames, which compellingly enough show Lincoln walking out of frame and into history. I ask you - who knew - that the Asylum was capable of subtle touches. Of making something cinematic?
And this all lands Abraham Lincoln Versus Zombies in a weird spot, because there's a chance that it might succeed. In other Asylum films, there are so many insipid plot twists and new developments that a synopsis is simply not possible. And while this is not the case for AVZ, there's too little going on between the good bits, which leaves the audience kind of bored. This is the major flaw.
If the script had followed more thoroughly its comedic elements while maintaing the serious performances, we might have been instead looking at a new cult classic. As it is, it's better made than previous Asylum films, which unfortunately means that it deserves to be compared to movies outside that camp, against which it simply does not shine. I hope this is a sign of possible changes to come, though. Imagine a world in which low budget Asylum rip-offs were comparably entertaining alternatives to their inspirations?