Several living personifications proving America’s cultural decline are attacked by dead presidents. Only John Wilkes Booth can save them now.
Director: David Zuckerman
Starring: Jud Zumwalt, David Zuckerman, Michael Minto
Not to be confused with 2010’s ‘President’s Day.’ This one has no comma, and several more dead presidents. ‘No comma, and a bunch more dead presidents’ was actually the original tagline until they settled on ‘Let Freedom Bleed’…ok not actually.
There are few things with less charm as a self-aware horror movie. One of those few things is 2016’s ‘Presidents Day.’ A single notch above a student film, David Zuckerman is learning how to make a movie by using the lowest common denominators of humor and horror alike. A movie which revolves around the bar napkin plotline of “Dead presidents kill teenagers.” It never gets beyond its own short sight.
The movie begins like nearly all classic slashers, a quick introduction to each member of the teens, a recap of their position on the social ladder, and a morality check to take bets on in what order they’re going to be dispatched. All the classics are here, jock, nerd, black guy, and a modern woman who makes her own choices about her body. This is a no slut-shaming review. The actors who play these cookie cutter roles do so to such a ludicrous degree that any basis in reality is shot out the window trailed closely behind by your tolerance as the film progresses.
A film like ‘Cabin in the Woods’ did the exact same thing as a spoof of the genre, but it was infinitely more effective due to the artistry from director Joss Whedon. Not to mention ‘Cabin’ didn’t have a main character that shouted every line like a cartoon bully. The strokes are painted so broadly in ‘Presidents Day’ that it’s laughable. Not because it’s funny but because it’s so sure that it’s funny. It’s a movie expecting to be voted class clown, but wins ‘most likely to drive up the suicide rate’ by a landslide.
Once the victims, or leads I should say, have been established and the stakes have been set. Set very low I should add. The zombie presidents start arriving. Not through any ritual gone wrong or treading on sacred ground. They just sort of pop up out of the dirt and start trying to kill the kids. President Taft while stuck in a bathtub even says that they’re just trying to kill everybody, nothing else. The second and third acts consist of bouncing between several storylines, none of them particularly interesting. The acting of the Presidents is capable, at least you can easily figure out who they’re supposed to be. Nixon’s got a big nose, Teddy Roosevelt’s in his Rough Rider outfit, etc. Michael Minto who doubles as John Wilkes Booth and casting director is a standout, emanating a confidence in his delivery that elevates others in his scenes.
The zombie make-up is unexceptional but that doesn’t really detract from anything. I don’t think if you’ve watched the half hour until George Washington shows up, you’re still expecting a great opus. Same can be said with any effects, limited as they may be. Gun shots have been added in after the fact, but I don’t think there was any danger of losing the suspension of disbelief.
Speaking earnestly, there is enough enthusiasm to stop this from becoming a total slog. The performances are a hundred percent over the top, and the script has the stink of amateurism on it. Still when it was over I was left basking in the bright light of allowing something so bonkers to exist. It’s unjaded, painfully goofy, and clearly in awe of the genre it’s attempting to lampoon.
No madman would recommend ‘Presidents Day.’ Unless you’re the proud mother or father of one of the film’s stars, in which case, I’m sorry about everything I said. I can only recommend this to fans of the very specific genre: Movies featuring pretty red-headed girls running around in their underwear also starring James K. Polk.