You would not think that President’s Day would really lend itself to horror movies. Of course, you wouldn’t think Valentine’s Day would either, yet we have classics like My Bloody Valentine and underrated gems like Valentine and the MBV remake. With President’s Day, though, I’ll be the first to admit that the pickings are pretty slim. We don’t have a lot and a lot of what we do have isn’t great. But part of the fun of being a horror fan is finding something trashy to watch on its matching calendar date.
Most of the President’s Day-related horror movies have actually come about in recent years, following the surprise box office success of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. Most of them have been straight to video attempts to cash in on that success, and they’re really bad. But they’re bad enough to watch with friends, to celebrate today with the sheer idiocy of some awful—but sadly memorable—patriotic B-Movie fare.
Not everything’s bad though. There are a couple of hidden gems out there, as there are with basically every niche in horror, however small. If these one or two shockingly good presidential affairs are the only things you choose to watch today, we can’t say we blame you. But there’s also fun to be had in marathoning all of the below selections, arguing with friends as to what monsters you think Lincoln really fought in his mysterious youth.
Of course, in this genre, there’s always the movie that actually takes the name of the holiday so it seems fitting to start there. This one’s definitely not great, but has the feeling that it would have been a really hilarious, campy romp if it had been made about thirty years earlier. The plot is, appropriately, very simple: A high school election takes a turn for the worse when a killer dressed like Abe Lincoln starts picking off the candidates. Execution aside, the initial concept is flawless.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
This is the big one. It might be kind of divisive with fans, but it gets major points for being the only film on this list with a major theatrical release. It made a fair amount at the box office too. Visually, it’s almost hilariously great. The style is so sleek, so polished and honestly so sincere that you’re not even sure what you’re watching. It’s not the satirical horror comedy I think a lot of people walked into the theater expecting. Instead, it’s an honest depiction of what Lincoln’s life as a vampire hunter would actually be like, which is a surprising direction to take. Based on the book by Seth Grahame-Smith, which was Lincoln’s own autobiography basically rewritten to include vampires.
Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies
Despite the virtual lack of budget, I think this is what a lot of people were expecting Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter to be. It’s more over-the-top, way cheesier, completely absurd, and while it may not be anything close to a good movie it might actually be the more entertaining watch. This is an Asylum production, of course, made to cash in on the success of the similarly named action vehicle that went to theaters, so you basically go in knowing what you’re going to get.
FDR: American Badass
You’d think this one would be even stupider than Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, but it’s saved by casting that is completely on point; including Barry Bostwick as FDR, Lin Shaye as Eleanor Roosevelt and Ray Wise as Douglas MacArthur. It’s more action-oriented than horror, but definitely earns its place on this list. This is the perfect B-Movie blend that both Lincoln flicks should have been, complete with FDR contracting polio from a werewolf. While still completely flawed, the success here lies in the willingness to embrace its campy nature, and the cast.
If you watch one horror film on or in any way related to President’s Day, make it this one. This is really the only one you need. A second season Masters of Horror episode from The Changeling director Peter Medak, The Washingtonians is genuinely funny and creepy in equal doses. It has all the right elements of an eerie haunted house movie and a political thriller at the same time. While just under the cusp of what’s traditionally considered to be feature length, it’s nonetheless worthy of a place on the list. In fact, for me it easily takes the number one spot. Not only do you have the revelation that George Washington was a cannibal, you have the secret society that will protect that information at any cost. The Washingtonians is not only the best thing a horror fan can watch on President’s Day, it’s one of the best of the Masters of Horror series in general.