No, the title isn’t a typo. The Asylum pros at the horror mockbuster tackled the chance to pit Abe Lincoln against another form of undead after his stint on the big screen going stovepipe-to-fang with a bunch of vampires.
Starring: Bill Oberst Jr., Kent Igleheart, and Rhianna Van Helton. Rated: R (Bloody zombie violence)
Synopsis: Honest Abe tangoed with the undead as a child. Believing his nightmares were long behind him, he moved on to politics and became the 16th president of the United States of America. Now in the midst of the Civil War, the undead are back. They’ve taken over a fort the Union needs in order to gain an upper hand against the Confederates. Abraham Lincoln leads a small company of loyal men into zombie and Confederate territory on a mission to defeat evil once and for all.
The premise held so much promise, along with leading man Bill Oberst Jr. Unfortunately things didn’t mesh up well to make everything work. The script tried too hard to sound like a period piece, leaving some of the actors stumbling over their clunky lines. Some of the notable historical figures, like Abe’s wife, were a mess. I didn’t realize he was married to this woman until an hour into the film, long after she’d been left behind in Washington while Lincoln went on to slaughter zombies with his wicked-sharp scythe. A well-written script will give actors a chance to build a relationship in a short scene. What they were given sounded more like a conversation between friends, possibly cousins. It was not a husband/wife moment. A few other historical figures were sprinkled into the movie. Some were like chocolate chips in a warm cookie. Others stones in room temperature oatmeal. So much of the film was hit-or-miss.
A lot of the film’s action was delivered in dialogue. The zombie attacks are forgettable. I can’t remember one good kill, or a zombie’s actions that stood out from the others. The makeup was standard grey face with mottling, veins, and black blood—the same makeup you’d see at a mid-level professional haunted house during October. Some of the zombie costumes were questionably historical. The women’s skirts in general ran too short for the time period. And at one point, a group of soldiers walks into a whore house, sees the women (living women) in their corsets and underskirts, and acts like it is normal. If a film is going historical, everything needs to mesh with the time period to give it depth. And one of the lead actresses needs to not have her modern bra showing.
There were far too many TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) characters in the film. At one point, it became obvious they were only there to bring in a few more historical figures to play with. That’s well and good, have fun with history, but don’t dumb the characters down. The viewers want them to die, and in this film there were that many good deaths to justify idiotic characters.
I’m going to give Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies three bloody scythes out of five—purely for the premise and Oberst’s performance as Abe. Somehow he managed to make Abraham Lincoln into a somewhat romantic figure. He never went for the cheap, cheesy action. Oberst’s performance was the truest in the film.
Look at that, it’s time for another round of torture the zombie. I know. Don’t look the gift horse in the mouth. I could be lying on the cold ground with a machete in my skull, yada, yada, yada . . . . But could the ZSC gift horse stop dredging up SyFy films for me to review? Obviously they didn’t learn their lesson after I reviewed 2012: Zombie Apocalypse. As a matter of fact, the plots for the two films were so similar, I stopped to make sure I hadn’t watched the first one again by mistake. So, what is Rise of the Zombies about?
Starring:Mariel Hemingway, Chad Lindberg, LeVar Burton, Heather Hemmens, and Danny Trejo. Rated: TV-14 (Violence, gore)
Synopsis: In the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, a ragtag group of people finds save haven in Alcatraz, until the undead manage to swim to the island and put them all in danger. Driven from the prison, the survivors of the attack hunt down a scientist who is working on a vaccine for the zombie virus. He may be their only hope to survive in a zombie-filled San Francisco.
I had to write that synopsis myself. SyFy assumed the fans didn’t need to know what the film was about beyond “zombie” being in the title. Because in their world, there is only one zombie film. They just rotate out locations and actors. Gotta say, the casting for Rise of the Zombies caught me by surprise. In a good way. If the cast hadn’t been so wonderful, the awful cheesy dialog would’ve been completely unbearable. How many times did they honestly need to shout, “There’s another zombie!” Yes, we see the zombies. They aren’t exactly ninjas. And there were a lot of them. Over an hour of the film was pure zombie attack scenes with little or no dialog. Which may be why, by the end of the film, I had no clue who the characters were. They had no history. No back story. We catch up with them at the prison and as far as viewers are concerned, every single character had been born there from two rocks rubbing together vigorously.
The blood and gore for the zombies themselves was pretty good, aside from a few understated background zombies who got too close to the camera and looked like Cousin Joey who happened to be in town that day and sneaked onto the movie set. Again, SyFy abused the hell out of computer-generated blood splatter. Why does anyone go that route for easy-to-rig FX gags? CG blood looks cheap and only really works as filler. Not the entire effect. Then it looks like someone handed a kid frames of the film on MS Paint and let them use the spray paint brush on it willy-nilly. All of the FX makeup budget went on to the zombies. The gags rigged for humans were seriously lacking, downright laughable at points. Apparently they were an afterthought.
SyFy tried to make Rise of the Zombies edgy. They even ripped off some of the philosophical issues brought up on The Walking Dead —Suicide, children born in the apocalypse, and what God thought about them killing zombies. The problem is, the script sucks. So while the writers thought they were being deep, the actors had nothing to deliver other than a hazy conviction that they were right. We get no emotional attachment to the characters. When they die, oh well. What’s the point of watching a post-apocalyptic film when you’re watching the clock so you can move on to something else? The film is not engaging for fans.
I’m going to give Rise of the Zombies two ruptured eyeballs out of five. Like all SyFy original movies, this is best viewed while surrounded by friends and a keg of beer. Maybe two kegs.
Sushi Girl Starring: Tony Todd, Noah Hathaway, James Duval, Andy Mackenzie, Mark Hamill, and Cortney Palm. Rated: R (strong bloody violence, torture, language, nudity, and drug use)
My guardian angel came in the middle of the night and dropped off a stack of films to review. Sitting on top was Sushi Girl, starring Zombie Survival Crew First Lieutenant Tony Todd. While it isn’t one of the usual zombie flicks the ZSC asks me to review, I gladly took the opportunity to support one of our own.
Fish has spent six years in jail. Six years alone. Six years keeping his mouth shut about the robbery, about the other men involved. The night he is released, the four men he protected with silence celebrate his freedom with a congratulatory dinner. The meal is a lavish array of sushi, served off the naked body of a beautiful young woman. The sushi girl seems catatonic, trained to ignore everything in the room, even if things become dangerous. Sure enough, the four unwieldy thieves can’t help but open old wounds in an attempt to find their missing loot.
Sushi Girl kicks off slowly, easing into a noir vibe — complete with flashbacks, intrigue, and mood-building soundtrack. In typical noir fashion, the film takes a few twists and turns, at one point hitting levels of gore on par with Japanese horror movies. The detail in the FX makeup is unsettling at times, giving viewers an eyeball-full of blood that’s sure to linger for a while. But the gore isn’t gratuitous. It is there to make the viewers uncomfortable, to drive home the idea that these characters will do anything to discover the truth about their missing loot.
The true beauty of the film comes from the cast, including a couple great cameos during one of the flashbacks. Tony Todd reigns as head badass in the motley crew of thieves. It’s a role we’re used to seeing Todd portray, but he does it so well, it is difficult to consider anyone else filling the slimy shoes of his character, Duke. Mark Hamill is completely unrecognizable in the role of the sociopath, Fish—with a few hat tips here and there to his great voice acting work as The Joker. His performance is the hardest to stomach, witnessing how far he delves into the joys of torturing a man.
The sushi laid out on the living platter didn’t seem quite as appetizing after watching the guys play their torture games. I felt like Rudolph, left to sit and watch the fun.
I’m going to give Sushi Girl 3 ¾ severed fingers out of 5. The story is well-written, with plenty of twists in what appears to be a straight-forward plot. Watch this one through to the end. You do not want to miss the final ten minutes and Cortney Palm’s moment to shine.
Rated: Not Rated (Extreme Violence and Gore)
Starring: Michael Fuith, Theo Trebs, and Anna Graczyk
Before anyone dives into this film feet first, be aware that it is not in English. There are subtitles. If that prevents you from watching any decent film, you need to brush up on your reading skills and suck it up. More often than not, it is worth the extra effort. Is Rammbock (2010) worth it? Let’s find out.
Synopsis: Michael heads to Berlin to talk with his recent ex-girlfriend with a plan to win her back. But something isn’t right with the city. It is too quiet and Gabi is nowhere to be found. Before he can find her, hell breaks loose in the form of ravenous zombies—quick, dangerous—swarming the apartment complex Gabi lives in. Michael finds himself relying on a young man, Harper, and the complex tenants to help him survive and locate his missing girlfriend.
Rammbock starts off a little slow, building the tension to the first reveal of a new, frightening zombie breed. They’re red-faced, veins bulging under their discolored skin. Foam flows from their mouths. They scream and run as though possessed by demons. In other words, they’re not to be trifled with. The virus that creates them works quickly. Those infected do not die. Instead, an adrenaline rush triggers the change. In theory, if an infected person can remain calm for long enough, their immune system will attack and destroy the virus. It is only a theory; no one can stay calm in the middle of a zombie attack for very long.
The way the virus works was supplied through an age-old zombie film trope—the news feed. It is understandable in the case of Rammbock; the film is just about an hour long. There isn’t enough time to demonstrate the full effect and possibilities of the virus. However, I wish someone would think of a more original way to convey vital information from the government to the people. Use carrier pigeons for all I care, just find another way that doesn’t make the audience begin to zone out after a while.
Mixed with the horror of watching these people trapped inside an apartment complex is a lot of very interesting questions about human nature. Who can you trust? Once you realize there is an outbreak, everyone, even your lovers and family become a threat. One scratch, one bite and they’re chowing down on your face. What is the right way to escape? Several times in the film, suicide is mentioned as an option to be free of the painful truth—there is no way out alive. Or is there? Bravery is walking forward, no matter what frightening thing you face. A handful of the characters are extremely brave, almost to a fault. And the final question is: Would you sacrifice yourself to kill your infected lover, sparing yourself the loss and them the indignity of living as a monster? As one of the monsters, I have to say life as a zombie isn’t half bad. To each their own, though.
Overall I’m giving Rammbock three and a half gnawed-on legs out of five. This is a film that will make you seriously stop and think, “Am I ready to face whatever odds, whatever horrors, in order to live?” Well, are you?