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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

A movie directed by Timur Bekmambetov

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It Seems Abe Wasn't as Honest As We Thought

  • Jun 23, 2012
Star Rating:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Don’t you just love a title that plainly spells it all out for you? Say it to yourself, and you’re instantly reminded of the sci-fi/horror B-movies that sounded as if they were christened before an actual screenplay was written, like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman or Creature from the Black Lagoon or Attack of the Crab Monsters. It matters not that the film plays fast and loose with American history. If anything, that will probably make it much more palatable for most audiences, myself included. Why bother with a straight historical drama? History doesn’t interest me. But a supernatural thriller, now there’s something I can really get into. Such movies have the excitement and imagination that can never be found within the pages of an encyclopedia.
The problem lies not with the creative liberties that were taken. It lies in the fact that the filmmakers made the mistake of taking the material seriously. When you have a title like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, there really is no point in trying to formulate clever parallels between vampirism and the atrocities of slavery and the Civil War. Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, who adapted his own mashup novel of the same name, was aiming for satire when the innate silliness of the premise dictated that he should have been aiming for pure camp. There are times when it comes close to that, but for the most part, it plays it straight and operates under the assumption that we should accept it on those terms. Forget about the fact that this is difficult to achieve. It might actually be impossible.

Unfolding for the most part as an extended flashback sequence, this film paints a revisionist portrait of the sixteenth President of the United States, one that happens to be in eye-popping 3D. We’re shown that all of the well-documented aspects of his life, from his boyhood days as a frontier axeman to his older days as a law student to his final days as the leader of the free world, were in fact touched in some way by the evil world of vampires, of which there were thousands during the mid nineteenth century. Lincoln wasn’t initially aware of this. As a boy (Lux Haney-Jardine), he witnessed his mother (Robin McLeavy) get ill and die after being attacked in bed by a ruthless slave owner named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) and vowed to take his revenge; nine years later, as an adult (Benjamin Walker), he makes an attempt on Bart’s life, only to then discover that he was in fact an undead blood sucker.
It’s through this confrontation that Lincoln becomes acquainted with a British man named Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who, for reasons the filmmakers made no attempt to keep hidden, knows all too well the reality of the existence of vampires. He reluctantly agrees to teach Lincoln in the ways of vampire hunting; this means he will turn Lincoln into a cross between an action hero and a video game character, paving the way for many violent, frenetic stunt and special effects sequences that involve a lot of slow motion. Sturgess informs Lincoln that a vampire hunter must refrain from forming close personal relationships, as they will almost certainly lead to heartbreak. He also warns that this can’t simply be about vengeance; Lincoln must systematically hunt his way through a series of vampires hidden all throughout the Midwest and ultimately work up to the head vampire, Adam (Rufus Sewell), a New Orleans-based slave owner.

Once in Springfield, Lincoln immediately breaks Sturgess’ first rule, befriending a shopkeeper named Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and falling in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the former fiancée of local politician Stephen A. Douglas (Alan Tudyk). Into Lincoln’s life reenters his boyhood friend, an escaped slave named William Johnson (Anthony Mackie), who now helps other slaves escape through the Underground Railroad and needs help evading bounty hunters. From this, we begin to see the misguided satirical machinery at work; Lincoln soon enters politics and speaks out against slavery, which is being perpetuated in large part because slaves are a food source for Southern vampires, who in turn want the right to exist. This inevitably leads to the Civil War, during which, not surprisingly, the Confederacy tries to gain the upper hand by recruiting vampires as soldiers.
It’s unlikely that general audiences will care or even know about the historical references Smith so freely manipulates. They will, however, respond to the music video-like action sequences, during which Lincoln flies through the air like an acrobat and wields a special silver-coated axe with the flair of a samurai. There are also a lot of exposed fangs and beheadings. Surprisingly, there’s no mention of wooden stakes or garlic cloves, and it seems Smith has envisioned vampires as immune to sunlight. There’s also an assortment of vampire rules that really have no bearing on the plot but are fun to hear about nonetheless. Indeed, parts of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter work well as escapist entertainment. The rest of it is mired by its own sense of purpose. We needed a movie, not a historical send-up.


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June 24, 2012
Was very meh for me. A nice technical achievement but it bored me to tears (well, nearly).
June 24, 2012
That's pretty much how I felt, although I can't say I ever felt bored.
June 25, 2012
I'm usually an easy one to entertain so long as there's nice looking visuals on the screen, but the sloppy script definitely got in the way of that. So I was damn near bored. I wanted to walk out before the third act even started, but I figured that I'd better just stay for the whole mess since I already paid my ten dollars (an act which I regret almost deeply, at this point).
June 23, 2012
very cool review. You and I have similar observations on this movie. I mean, I had some issues getting into it because of the way it dictated its mood and tempo. It was like it was trying to be like "Nightwatch" when it should've been more upbeat and campy. I wanted to like this movie, but the script (written by the novelist himself) felt a little too episodic for something with this tone. Ok, now I am off to see "Brave" tomorrow.
June 24, 2012
I don't know what Nightwatch is, so I'll have to take your word for it. Regardless, I too wanted to like this movie. But by my standards, it was a silly story that was taken too seriously by the filmmakers.
June 25, 2012
I guess sometimes the tone of a book sometimes cannot be applied to the screen. My main problem with it was the way it moved too quickly and it felt real episodic. It was trying to cover so much in so short a movie.
July 02, 2012
I cannot comment on the tone of the book, as I haven't read it. Nor have I read anything written by Seth Grahame-Smith. Chances are I never will.
More Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunte... reviews
review by . June 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****    Honest Abe himself tells us early on in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" that one very significant portion of his life will not be remembered throughout American history. The premise for the film is that he lived a double life as a slayer of vamps; a side-job that started at an early age when his mother's life was taken by one named Jack Barts. This was mere inspiration. Lincoln did not learn that you could properly dispose of vampires for good until he tried …
review by . June 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Presidential Proclamation: Vampire Hunter!
When I review a film, comic book or a book, I usually try to find a way to relate to the material to find a common point as to find the things I usually look for in its story. I really wasn’t certain how I was going to approach “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” since it is a fantasy action horror movie that is based on the mashup novel with the same name. I am at a slight disadvantage since I haven’t read the novel as of yet (then again it may be a good idea to see a movie …
review by . June 25, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Near the end of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, there is a scene that explains for me the ultimate message of Abraham Lincoln:  offered the tainted immortality of vampirism to use to fight for good for eternity, Lincoln deflects the suggestion with his legendary wisdom and humor without giving a second thought to the offer.  For those who may be horrified by a generation of young people learning about Lincoln from this movie (and the mashup fiction that it is based on), I would offer the …
review by . February 12, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
            ABRAHAM LINCOLN   VAMPIRE HUNTER      Abraham Lincoln, what can be said about this man that hasn't already been said before? Wait I know, he has battled Vampires and Zombies for most of his life, its fact. I guess you dear reader had no idea about that did you? No you didn't, because it is one of the many government cover ups that are out there. Why did they never tell you about this? Well almost all of you …
Quick Tip by . February 12, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
The Blu-Ray is excellent coming with all kinds of special features. My favorite being the making of which goes into great detail about everything involving the film. Then of course the commentary by the writer is very interesting. There is much more that only make this release a must have for film buffs who enjoy the behind the scenes stuff.
review by . December 11, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Well-made gore fest
When young Abraham Lincoln angers a man (who happens to a vampire), the man takes his revenge by killing the boy's mother. Lincoln then dedicates his life to finding vampires and killing them with his silver-tipped ax.      I really enjoyed this movie. Yes, it's horrifically gory at times, but the clever mix of fantasy and true events is very well done and I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. We follow Lincoln from store clerk to the White House. …
review by . June 25, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The summer movie season can be home to plenty of whimsical, often ridiculous premises for movies. We’ve seen movies based on comic books, toy lines, and most recently, board games. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” continues the trend with one of the most laughable titles I’ve ever read, let alone the absurd premise of the film that pits our 16th president against a horde of blood-sucking night dwellers in an alternate-history romp. That being said, I was just as surprised …
review by . June 22, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter' History + Vampires = A Winne (Video)
By Joan Alperin Schwartz   Most of the time, when you see a film, after you've read the book, you feel let down. The movie usually pales in comparison to the novel.      I am happy to report this isn't the case with 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'               The film, shot in 3D and directed by Timur Bekmambetov (I've never heard of him either) is entertaining, exciting, clever and total …
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2012
Nothing so intrinsically silly ought be presented in as humorless a manner as that of Timor Bekmambetov's latest waste of film, an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's amusing revisionist novel. Scarcely any of the author's droll wit is preserved in transition; this movie is exciting as an extravaganza of stylized combat, yet divested of its source material's facetious character, ultimately nothing more than inadvertently vacuous. At present, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a rarity among …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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