Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) – So… um… right… so when I first saw Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in the bookstore I had what I assumed was the appropriate reaction: I laughed. It’s a movie about the Great Emancipator hunting and killing imaginary undead bloodsucking fiends. That’s comedy, right? Right? Surely such a movie wouldn’t expect me to take it seriously… oh wait, it totally does. Abraham Lincoln… hunting vampires… that’s this movie and it plays it all deadly serious. So that can’t possibly be any good, right? I mean playing it for laughs is one thing, sure, but a serious version of Lincoln freeing slaves in order to fight the vampire menace of the South? Taking the bloodiest and most tragic chapter of American history and recasting it in a fantasy-horror context? That’s just… well, I don’t really know what that is but it seems… I don’t know if wrong is the right word but it’s the first one that comes to mind…

When he is a child Honest Abe witnesses his mother (Robin McLeavy) murdered by a man named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). After he grows up Lincoln (Liam Neeson-lookalike Benjamin Walker) tries to kill Barts but discovers that putting a bullet in his eye doesn’t cut it; Barts is a vampire. Vampires exist and they practically run the South. A mysterious mentor named Henry (Dominic Cooper) trains Lincoln to fight the undead threat. He moves to Springfield where he rooms with Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and kills vampires that Henry tells him about. He also meets the lovely and radiant Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, bringing loveliness and radiance), who is unfortunately engaged to slavery apologist Stephen Douglas (Alan Tudyk). Abe’s late night habits gain the attention of Adam (Rufus Sewell), the head vampire of the South. Plus, Abraham develops greater ambitions that will earn him a place in history…

So this movie is pretty bad. Let me get that out of the way right now. In addition to the whole issue of being a serious interpretation of an inherently comic idea, it also has a lot of the same problem as director Timur Bekmambetov’s previous film Wanted. (This film does, however, have the advantage of not being a shitty watered-down version of a ridiculously fucked-up comic book that I loved.) Lincoln has superpowers. Basically by just “imagining what he hates most” he can do things like chop through a tree with a single swing of an ax. The vampires have superpowers because they’re fucking vampires. Lincoln has superpowers because… he wants them bad enough? That doesn’t work or the world would be terrorized by super-powered eight-year-olds. Oddly enough, around the mid-point Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter does possess a weird sort of entertainment value. Also, I do have to concede that on a technical level the movie is amazing. Caleb Deschanel proves once more that (in addition to fathering hot daughters) he one of the most gifted cinematographers working in film today. The effects are superb and the 3D may be the most effective I’ve seen at the multiplex this summer. If you go in with the sort of expectations of an Ed Wood movie, you may enjoy the hell out of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I can’t say I did.


After-thought: There is an odd historical rumor that Abraham Lincoln was gay (this is the namesake belief of the gay conservative group the Log Cabin Republicans) mostly due to his close relatioship with Joshua Speed. When they were poor young men in Springfield they even shared a bed. (It is unlikely, had  they been lovers that Lincoln would have been so open about the whole bed-sharing deal.) I’m not saying the movie should have made them gay, but I think a knowing historical wink at the rumor would have been amusing. Some sort of quip like “I think people are going to get the wrong idea about us” or something. I don’t know.

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